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A state report naming theBethEnergy Division of Bethlehem Steel Corp. in Lackawanna as the state's top emitter of toxic chemicals is based on outdated information, the plant manager said Tuesday.

Since that information was submitted 18 months ago, William T. Birmingham said, "We have made considerable progress in reducing emissions at our coke division."

The report, released Tuesday, said that last year hundreds of companies, including BethEnergy, put a combined 132.9 million pounds of toxic wastes into New York's air, waterways and landfills.

Birmingham said Bethlehem has spent nearly $28 million on environmental improvements at the plant. Bethlehem was under state orders to cut the air pollution from its coke plant, which dates from 1903, and eliminate the chemicals in the "weak ammonia liquor" that it was piping to the local sewage-treatment plant.

BethEnergy cut emissions from 1.6 million pounds of cancer-causing benzene compounds in 1988 to 1 million pounds last year, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation survey of industry-generated records of emissions.

But the DEC noted that a closed-loop system to be completed in August "will cut discharges to zero."

Birmingham said the benzene program is not complete but "has already progressed to the point where the single largest source of benzene emissions has been eliminated."

"We have made a lot of environmental progress here as a demonstration to our community of our capability to be a good neighbor," he said. "We'll continue to make progress in our environmental programs at our coke-making operations."

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