Hundreds of companies dumped a combined 132.9 million pounds of toxic wastes into New York's air, waterways and landfills in 1989, according to a state survey of industry-generated emission records.
Of the 849 companies reporting toxic emissions for last year, 142 are in Erie and Niagara counties. But the state Department of Environmental Conservation survey does not provide a county-by-county breakdown of the volume of wastes emitted or transferred.
The state noted that industry had cut its total discharges by 25 percent over the previous year.
But Citizen Action, an environmental group, said New York industries still discharge 36 million pounds of cancer-causing chemicals annually, the second largest amount of any state.
Two area companies are among the state's top three emitters of high-toxicity chemicals -- BethEnergy Division of Bethlehem Steel Corp. in Lackawanna ranks first and Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. in Niagara Falls is third. The survey also points to a number of other area companies.
State officials in Albany said they plan to release the report this week, but The Buffalo News obtained a copy from a source in Buffalo City Hall.
"The real impact of this report is that it focuses on company discharges in a way that brings them individually under public scrutiny and leads government to review toxic waste discharges with a view of assessing the need for further reductions," said John J. Spagnoli, DEC regional director.
"Large companies are reacting," said Stanley Gubner, the DEC's regional air-quality engineer. "In talking with corporate managers, they tell me that they are under orders to cut discharges even before they are required to do so by regulations."
Erie County has the biggest concentration of industries discharging toxic wastes into the air, water and solid waste facilities, according to the state assessment of industry records filed with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under a federal "right to know act."
A majority of the companies are located in the metropolitan Buffalo area. Overall, 101 Erie County companies reported some type of discharge or disposal. Niagara, with 41 companies, ranks fourth behind Monroe and New York City.
DEC officials said they believe all the companies reporting are operating within the law and the limits set by federal and state permits.
Gerald R. Ehrman, manager of E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co's Niagara Falls plant, said in a recent interview that corporate officials have called for a 60 percent cut in all emissions by 1993 with an eventual goal of zero discharge. The plant cut emissions 8.6 percent last year, Ehrman said. Federal records show Du Pont as the nation's No. 1 discharger of toxic chemicals.
Occidental Chemical Corp. cut its emissions 38 percent, eliminating discharge of 33,000 pounds of waste, but it is still listed as the state's 10th largest discharger of chemicals. Philip D. Becker, plant manager of the Durez Division in North Tonawanda, noted that facility has achieved zero discharge -- one of the few to do so.
While the number of companies reporting toxic discharges or disposal has risen, the DEC said emissions have decreased significantly over the past year.
The Atlantic States Legal Defense Fund has sued 17 companies in Erie County that it says failed to file reports. A spokesman said several subsequently complied but the fund thinks others have not reported.
The report's other highlights include:
BethEnergy -- While it cut emissions from 1.6 million pounds, the coke-maker still discharged 1 million pounds of cancer-causing benzene compounds. The DEC said completion of a new, closed-loop system in August "will cut discharges to zero."
Goodyear -- The company cut its emissions of vinyl chloride by 8,700 pounds but still emitted 81,482 pounds of the chemical that is identified by heath officials as a cancer-causing compound. The DEC said the company complies with state permit limits.
General Motors Corp.'s Harrison Division Plant in Lockport, Du Pont's Town of Tonawanda facility, BethEnergy and Buffalo Color Corp. also are singled out as heavy dischargers of chemicals into the air in releases not covered by regulations.