Air of Uncertainty: LDEQ, EPA to hold public meeting, Rep. Richmond weighs in

Air of Uncertainty: LDEQ, EPA to hold public meeting, Rep. Richmond weighs in
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) -A Louisiana congressman says regulatory agencies need to be more transparent about the Denka-Dupont rubber plant in Laplace. But residents say they'd rather see actions as opposed to empty promises.

The Concerned Citizens of St. John hold semi-regular informational meetings at this small, rural church.

They hear from scientists, environmental groups, and government leaders about updates on how chloroprene emissions from the nearby Denka-Dupont rubber plant impact their air quality. But residents are growing tired.

“We’ve been doing this 3, 3 and a half years, we want to see results,” said resident, Mary Hampton.

The EPA recommends plants keep chloroprene emissions below a 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter level, as the CDC has labeled chloroprene a likely carcinogen.

Mary Hampton says after years of fighting for that to be a requirement, they want to see action and change.

“We had a little girl, 51-years-old, I call her little girl, 51-years-old die of cancer and we’ve had so many people in our area recently, sometimes there are 3-4 funerals and it’s getting worse,” said Hampton.

Representative Cedric Richmond says he will now become more involved. He requested LDEQ and the EPA schedule a public meeting for transparency and to explain a new air quality monitoring program called SPod’s, which will monitor chloroprene spikes in the air as opposed to continuously gathering data.

“I think environmental justice is important period across the board, so part of the role government is to weigh in on behalf of citizens’ when they feel they’re getting run over or ignored,” said Richmond.

Richmond goes on to explain how he too believes the plant should abide by the .02 micrograms per cubic meter recommendation.

“Anything over what scientists deem to be safe or appropriate I think that should be the cutoff,” said Richmond.

LDEQ secretary, Chuck Carr Brown responded to Richmond saying "we are in compliance with federal standards for all criteria pollutants except sulfur dioxide.” He says Denka-Dupont “agreed to several measures to reduce chloroprene” and said the EPA will hold a public meeting, time and date to be determined.

If in the future LDEQ, EPA, and the congressmen plan to pack the small church to meet with citizens, Hampton says she’ll believe it when she sees it.

“If they’re going to come here, speak to us, let us know they understand our plight, they’re working with us to get things cleaned up, we welcome them with open arms,” said Hampton.

An EPA representative is planning to attend the town meeting tomorrow.

I reached out to the spokesperson for Denka/Dupont, Jim Harris who said when the public meeting is finalized, it will depend on the format as there are still several lawsuits against the plant.

Harris says they have reduced chloroprene emissions by 85 percent.

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