The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Raviya Ismail, Earthjustice, (202) 667-4500, ext. 221

Gulf Coast Communities Praise EPA Plan to Limit PVC Plant Pollution

Court settlement reached, agency to limit emissions of cancer-causing toxins starting in July 2011


Edgar Mouton, 74, has lived in Mossville, Louisiana for all his
life and for most of those years he's lived near a PVC plant. In his
community Mr. Mouton said there are unnatural rates of cancer, lung
disease and asthma -- which he believes is directly linked to the PVC
plant nearby. There's also the stink that smells like rotten eggs, he

But thankfully, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has agreed
to begin regulating the host of toxins released from PVC plants by July
29, 2011.

EPA agreed to the deadline as part of a settlement
reached between the agency, Sierra Club and community groups in
Louisiana: Mossville Environmental Action Now (MEAN) and Louisiana
Environmental Action Network (LEAN). The nonprofit environmental law
firm Earthjustice represented the groups in the lawsuit.

Each year, PVC plants pump some 500,000 pounds of vinyl chloride --
a known human carcinogen -- and many other toxins into the atmosphere.
In spite of the documented effects of these cancer-causing chemicals,
the PVC industry's air emissions have remained largely unregulated for

Mossville, Louisiana, with its four vinyl production facilities,
including two major vinyl chloride manufacturers, is considered the
unofficial PVC capital of America. Mossville residents Edgar Mouton and
Dorothy Felix have spent much of the past decade fighting to protect
their families from the cancer-causing chemicals raining down upon
their community. Pollutant levels in the Mossville community are three
times the national average.

"We live among chemicals that leach into our water, our food, our
children's bodies," said Mr. Mouton, a retired chemical plant employee.
"It's affected our livelihood in much too many ways with folks being
diagnosed with cancer and other diseases. We're ecstatic that EPA has
answered our calls for help and decided monitor the toxins that are
pumped out of these plants."

Louisiana is home to six of the nation's 24 plants
manufacturing polyvinyl chloride, commonly known as PVC or vinyl. Six
more plants are located in Texas. The remaining plants are found in New
Jersey, Delaware, Illinois, Kentucky, Mississippi, Alabama, Michigan
and Oklahoma.

"The PVC facilities in Baton Rouge and on the west bank of the
Mississippi River across from Baton Rouge are having extensive human
health impacts on community members living in the shadow of these PVC
industrial facilities," said Marylee Orr, executive director of the
Louisiana Environmental Action Network. "Limiting plant emissions is
absolutely necessary for the welfare of all residents living near these

"This is the first step in preventing dangerous toxins from
destroying communities," said Earthjustice attorney Katie Renshaw. "We
are hopeful that EPA will finally give residents their right to clean
air and water by issuing a real limit on PVC plant emissions."

The Clean Air Act requires the Environmental Protection Agency to
set emission standards for each hazardous air pollutant PVC plants
emit. But in 2002, the Bush EPA decided to set standards for just one:
vinyl chloride.

This left plants' emissions of dioxins, chromium, lead, chlorine,
and hydrogen chloride -- substances associated with a wide variety of
serious adverse health effects including cancer -- entirely unchecked.
EPA took no action to issue a new lawful standard until environmental
groups, represented by Earthjustice, filed a lawsuit which eventually
resulted in today's court settlement.

PVC is used in a range of plastic products from vinyl siding,
plumbing, carpet backing, and appliances to raincoats and seat covers.
The industry is projected to grow in coming years, but several
manufacturers have come under fire in the past for irresponsible
practices. Among them:

  1. PVC manufacturer Formosa accidentally released 8,000 pounds of
    vinyl chloride into the atmosphere from its Baton Rouge, La. plant in
  2. In 2004, the Keysor-Century plant in Saugus, CA
    paid $4 million in penalties in 2004 for lying about the high levels of
    carcinogens it was releasing into the air.
  3. A federal safety board found PVC manufacturer
    Formosa, Inc. did not do enough to prevent a 2004 explosion that killed
    five workers at its Illiopolis, Ill. plant.
  4. In October 2005, a Formosa employee struck a
    liquid propylene line with a forklift at the firm's plastics and
    chemicals plant in Point Comfort, Texas. That accident caused a fire
    that burned for five days and injured 12 people.

Read the settlement agreement

Map showing the locations of PVC plants nationwide:

[iframe,-86.153068&spn=14.928003,22.551499&output=embed height=350 width=425]

View PVC Plants in a larger map

Earthjustice is a non-profit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting the magnificent places, natural resources, and wildlife of this earth, and to defending the right of all people to a healthy environment. We bring about far-reaching change by enforcing and strengthening environmental laws on behalf of hundreds of organizations, coalitions and communities.