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The Department of Justice recently filed a complaint to reduce the emissions of the Denka Performance Elastomer plant.
Filed yesterday on behalf of the EPA under the Clean Air Act, the plant is being urged to lower its emissions of chloroprene, a hazardous carcinogen connected with lung cancer.
Located in LaPlace, Louisiana, in a predominantly Black neighborhood, Denka’s main emissions come from their facility that specializes in creating neoprene, a rubber found in products such as adhesives. According to the EPA, the amount of chloroprene released in the air by the company’s plant in the city reaches up to 14 times more than the recommended level for a 70-year span.
“When I visited Saint John the Baptist Parish during my first Journey to Justice tour, I pledged to the community that EPA would take strong action to protect the health and safety of families from harmful chloroprene emissions from the Denka facility,” said the EPA Administrator, Michael S. Regan, in a press release for the complaint. “This complaint filed against Denka delivers on that promise. The company has not moved far enough or fast enough to reduce emissions or ensure the safety of the surrounding community.”
This new complaint isn’t the first action the EPA has taken against Denka. The facility has been listed by the EPA as a dangerous site since 2011, when a National Air Toxics Assessment first recorded the extreme levels of chloroprene. Although Denka dedicated $17 million to reduce their emissions in 2017, the EPA still found in 2022 that their regulatory requirements weren’t being met when it came to getting rid of chloroprene waste- a method that still releases the carcinogen into the air.
Located specifically on a strip of land nicknamed “Cancer Alley,” Denka’s facility is a danger to approximately 28,800 people that call LaPlace home. According to activists, the plant’s activities are specifically a danger to the Black community, which makes up almost 54% of the city’s population.
In 2021, the EPA issued a letter to the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality and the Louisiana Department of Health, highlighting their role in being complacent in Denka’s pollution of Black residents’ air.
“LDH may not have satisfied its duty to make recommendations to agencies, such as LDEQ and the St. John the Baptist Parish School Board, to prioritize the reduction and prevention of chloroprene exposure,” they wrote in their public letter. “EPA believes that, as a result of LDH’s actions and inactions, LDH may be causing and/or contributing to disproportionate and adverse impacts on the Black residents living and school children attending school near the Denka facility.”