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Olin Corp., announced today it will invest $160 million to expand its Charleston, Tenn., plant and phase out its mercury-based production method by 2012.

Olin officials said chlorine production will be expanded at its plant on the Hiwassee River and changed to a new and more efficient technology that no longer uses mercury cell technology.

"Over the past 18 months, we have experienced a steady increase in the number of our customers unwilling to accept our products manufactured using mercury cell technology," Olin Chairman and CEO Joseph Rupp said. "The conversion of the Charleston facility which, in addition to chlorine and caustic soda, also produces potassium hydroxide, hydrochloric acid and bleach, will prevent the potential loss of these valuable customers."

Frank Chirumbole, president of Olin's Chlor Alkali Products line, said the Charleston plant "is ideally suited" for the production and will be expanded "to add even more production in the near future." Olin will slightly reduce its production of caustic soda, reflecting the current market demand, Chirumbole said.

With its headquarters in nearby Cleveland, Olin has about 350 employees in Bradley County. The expansion is not expected to change staffing levels at the facility, officials said.

Construction of the new plant will begin in the second quarter of 2011 and should generate hundreds of temporary construction jobs.

Olin Corp. also announced today it will make a similar change to reconfigure its plant in Augusta, Ga. by the end of 2012.

Read more in tomorrow's Times Free Press.

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