Last Modified: Wednesday, September 19, 2012 11:31 AM
MOSSVILLE — Residents are perplexed about a decision by Louisiana environmental regulators to renew Georgia Gulf’s air emissions permit even though toxic chemicals are known to float beyond the company’s property.
Last month, the state Department of Environmental Quality announced its decision, one that Mossville Environmental Action Now, a nonprofit environmental group based in Calcasieu Parish, is contesting.
A DEQ report from Aug. 13 said, “Computer modeling indicates that maximum offsite concentrations of VCM and EDC exceed the Louisiana Ambient Air Standards. However, the exceedances are at the receptors at the roadways, railroads, industrial properties and forest.”
MEAN president Dorthy Felix said the decision is insulting, especially considering residents live in the “forest.”
“They are saying there aren’t any residents there. But there are families who live next door to the plant’s fence line,” she said.
Sally Comeaux is one of those property owners.
“We are still here. They (state regulators) need eyeglasses. There is the plant. The fence. The road. And then us,” she said.
Ethylene dichloride and vinyl chloride monomer — chemicals known to cause serious health problems in people exposed to them — are used and produced at the facility, which was built in 1967.
MEAN, with assistance from New Orleans-based Advocates for Environmental Human Rights, filed a lawsuit against the state in 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge on Sept. 12.
“Air-monitoring data and official reports reveal that for several years the Georgia Gulf vinyl facility has been emitting high concentrations of toxic chemicals into the Mossville area, where people live. These chemicals are scientifically known to cause liver cancer, lung and kidney damage, respiratory ailments and headaches,” Wilma Subra, MEAN’s environmental science adviser, said in a news release.
Monique Harden, an attorney with Advocates for Environmental Human Rights, said DEQ violated its own guidelines in renewing the air permit. She said Louisiana ambient air standard requirements mandate companies test air beyond their borders to see if toxic chemicals can be detected.
“The regulation generally prohibits a company from releasing any pollutant that exceeds an ambient air standard,” she said. “The only exception to the prohibition requires a company to demonstrate that it would be economically infeasible to comply with the ambient air standard; its release of pollution in excess of the air standard is not likely to pose a public health threat; and that it meets federal requirements for pollution controls.”
Harden said the lawsuit argues that the state “made its preliminary determination without any showing from Georgia Gulf that compliance with the ambient air standards would be economically infeasible … and the state issued the permit in disregard of the fact that a serious health threat exists for Mossville residents living in the area where Georgia Gulf’s emissions of a toxic chemical are in excess of an ambient air standard.”
DEQ officials said they had not viewed the lawsuit yet. Georgia Gulf can operate with the permit unless the decision to grant a renewal is overturned in state court.