National Geographic : 1980 Oct
Environmental activist Bela Kerecz: "Bethlehem Steel is going to dump millions of gallons of this polluted water into Baltimore's waste water treatment plant. "The city's all for it." "It's a real success story," says Bela Kerecz, a pollution abatement engineer in Bethlehem Steel's research department. Bob Mohr, plant man ager of Baltimore's huge Back River waste water treatment plant, calls it "A unique example of government and indus try cooperation." What they're talking about is how a waste product called "pickle liquor" is going to solve an environmental problem-and save millions of dollars for both Bethlehem and the City of Baltimore. Everyone benefits Bob Mohr explains: "Federal and state laws require cities to limit phosphorus in the treated waste water they discharge. They also require Bethlehem Steel to properly dis pose of spent acid water, or pickle liquor, which results from mak ing sheet steel. "By using Bethlehem's pickle liquor to reduce the phosphate level, the City of Baltimore will save the cost of chemi cals needed with con ventional methods. And Bethlehem will elimi nate the need for an acid-reclamation plant, a major capital expenditure." More government/ industry cooperation needed This pickle liquor project is what government/industry cooperation should be all about: working to gether to protect public health at the lowest possi ble cost to taxpayers and to industry. Bethlehem's policy is to work with state and Federal agencies toward developing and imple menting cost-effective environmental control programs. However, Bethlehem believes that some regu lations are overly restric tive or have require ments that are not realistic. For example, does it make good economic and energy sense to require indus- try to "purify" the air and water beyond what is necessary to protect public health? Our position is clearly explained in our book let, Steelmaking and the Environment, which in cludes our Statement on Environmental Quality Control. If you would like a copy, write: Public Affairs Dept., Room 476, Martin Tower, Bethlehem Steel Corpo ration, Bethlehem, PA 18016. Bethlehem W How pickle liquor solves the problem Bela Kerecz, one of Bethlehem Steel's thousand employees active in our environmental control pro gram, explains: "Pickle liquor con tains iron sulphate. We knew that under properly controlled condi tions the iron would combine with the phosphate in the waste water to form insoluble iron phosphate. The iron phosphate, in turn, would set tle as a solid which could be dis posed of readily. The small amount of dilute acid in the pickle liquor would be neutralized by the normal alkalinity of the treated waste water. "In 1978, a four-month-long cooperativeexperiment, conducted at Baltimore's Back River waste water treatment facility, was suc cessful and led to the signing of an agreementbetween our Sparrows Point Plant and the City of Baltimore."