ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST PARISH, LA (WVUE) - Tuesday, the federal government announced a timetable to get a Louisiana plant to reduce its chemical emissions that are classified as a likely carcinogen.
The Environmental Protection Agency labeled the Denka Performance Elastomer facility as putting St. John the Baptist Parish residents who live nearby at the highest risk for developing cancer in the nation.
Denka, the EPA and Louisiana's Department Environmental Quality say the facility will go through a four-step process costing millions to reduce its chloroprene emissions by 85 percent by the end of 2017.
A press release outlines the plan:
- DPE will install a modification at the Neoprene Unit to route emissions from the Poly Kettles Vent Condenser to an additional vent condenser which will operate in series with the existing equipment. This project is scheduled for completion and startup in early February 2017. DPE has already received permission from LDEQ to begin construction.
- DPE will install a new vacuum pump and brine condenser on the Chloroprene Refining Column, replacing an older vacuum system. This project is scheduled for completion and startup in second quarter 2017. DPE has already received permission from LDEQ to begin construction.
- DPE will install more than 1,200 feet of pipe to route process vents in the monomer area to the HCl unit for removal by combustion. This project is expected to be online in late third quarter, 2017.
- DPE will install a Regenerative Thermal Oxidizer (RTO) to remove much of the remaining chloroprene emissions from the site. DPE's parent company Denka Co. Ltd. has reliably operated similar devices in Japan for many years. This major project is expected to come online by the end of 2017.
Denka rejects the EPA's study, saying the agency does not have sufficient data to back its claim.
Wilma Subra with the Louisiana Environmental Action Network believes the scheduled reductions do not go far enough, even with Denka operating within all state and federal guidelines and laws.
"You have to remember these releases have been going on for 47 years, and until March of this year we didn't have any actual data in the residential areas, in the Laplace area, the Reserve area. Residents are suddenly looking at that and saying why didn't anyone protect us before now?" Subra said.
Denka purchased the plant from Dupont in November of last year, just a few days before the EPA released its study on cancer risks across the nation.
In 2010, the EPA reclassified chloroprene as a likely carcinogen.