Olin Chlor Alkali Charleston Plant

The Olin Chlor Alkali Charleston Plant is a chemical processing factory located in Charleston, Tennessee. The plant is located on Lower River Road about one mile from I-75. Chattanooga is 30 miles to the south. The factory sits on a 1,000-acre property and employs 320 people. Among the raw materials used by Olin Chlor Alkali are chlorine bleach, caustic soda, hydrochloric acid, and potassium hydroxide. These materials are used to manufacture a variety of consumer products, including paper, vinyl products, cleaners, batteries, fertilizers, glass, and textiles.

Construction began on the Olin Charleston plant in 1960. 50 acres of the 1000-acre lot were developed for the factory. Production officially began in March 1962 and was joined the following year by Arch Chemicals. Arch Chemicals is a pool treatment manufacturer that uses the Olin facilities to produce its products. Arch product production was removed from the plant in 1999, but the company remains a valuable customer of Olin Chlor Alkali.

Besides supporting 320 employees, Olin Chlor Alkali spends $80 million every year on local products and services. It is estimated that over 200 additional jobs in the community are supported by purchases from the Olin plant. Each year, the plant pays over $1 million in local and state taxes that supports the local community and schools.

The Olin Chlor Alkali plant is involved in the local community in ways other than providing financial support through the economy. The plant supports the United Way in multiple surrounding counties. They also have a partnership with Tennessee Technical College, Cleveland State Community College, and Charleston Elementary School. In addition, Olin Chlor Alkali works with the Chambers of Commerce in Cleveland and Bradley. Other contributions include donations to Keep America Beautiful, the American Cancer Society, and Relay for Life.

Concerns about water pollution in the Hiawassee River because of the plant have been ongoing. One of the major pollutants is mercury. Safer production methods that release less mercury are available and the Charleston plant has been targeted by numerous environmentalists for emitting high levels of mercury. Olin said it will convert the Charleston plant, eliminating its mercury use in the manufacture of the chlorine and caustic soda it produces in 2012.

Congruently, another issue that is likely to be a problem at the Charleston Plant is asbestos. Asbestos is a natural fiber that was widely used as an insulator for many chemical plants built before the 1980s. Due to its fire retardant and inexpensive nature, it was very common to use asbestos as an insulator in ceiling tiles, walls, work benches, boilers, generators and even as protective clothing worn by plant workers. Unfortunately, asbestos is toxic, and once airborne, it can cause serious health hazards such as asbestosis and mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer with a latency period of 20 to 50 years. Mesothelioma cancer is very difficult to treat because it is so advanced by the time it is discovered that many conventional cancer treatments won’t work.