Air of Uncertainty: Judge’s ruling reinvigorates St. John citizens’ lawsuit against Denka-Dupont

Updated: Nov. 23, 2020 at 9:55 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - He’s somewhat become the face of the citizens of St. John Parish in their fight against the Denka-Dupont plant. But Bobby Taylor says it hasn’t been an easy one.

“It’s been four years of a very tough battle, we’ve had some successes, but for the most part we’ve lost some ground,” said Taylor.

Answering the phone this morning, he learned from attorneys that a significant ruling from a judge would keep their lawsuit against the plant alive.

“I was encouraged by the fact that we had a win. We have not had much of that dealing with these people,” said Taylor.

Thousands of residents signed onto the lawsuit saying the rubber plant contributed to cancer and respiratory issues in their community. For years the plant has said it installed mitigation measures, and decreased the amount of chloroprene emitted into the air, an element the EPA has labeled a “likely carcinogen”.

Denka-Dupont filing an appeal, arguing it was not responsible for the claims. Attorney Hugh “Skip” Lambert explains that per the judge’s ruling, that’s not true.

“They never stopped doing what they were doing and just transferred it over to Denka…For the community, it indicates the court is not going to allow Dupont with a bunch of paper to get rid of a responsibility that they have really ignored for years in emitting excessive amounts of chloroprene,” said Lambert.

Lambert says it’s telling that the court reduced thousands of pages of information to this two-page ruling, saying: “Dupont arguably could be responsible for the ongoing harm and unreasonable risks of harm the facility presents by its operations”.

“The truth gets lost in a lot of words and a lot of paper and I think that’s what our opponents count on is that it takes too long there’s too much paper there too many words,” said Lambert.

“It certainly has emboldened us and encouraged us that we can if we just stay at the helm stay fighting that we can see some results coming from it,” said Taylor.

Taylor like many in his community say they are tired, but they will continue to fight.

“When we started out they said ok give them a few minutes and they’ll be gone, well it’s four years and we’re still here and I’m proud of the people, they’re common people here and we’ll continue to fight,” said Taylor.

Lambert said they’ll likely see more appeals from the plant, though he says the next step for them is more discovery especially as there’s been a recent change in these new air monitors around the plant.

Fox 8 reached out to Denka-Dupont for comment regarding the ruling, but have not yet heard back.

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