PFOA 2006
Another polluter not needed.
By Dave Winter. Mississippi Free Press. March 19, 2006


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March 19, 2006

Mississippi Free Press

Another polluter not needed

By Dave Winter

On March 7, First Chemical of Pascagoula issued a press release announcing a new manufacturing line that will add five to 10 jobs. It turns out that this "new" manufacturing line is a process that is used to "destroy trace amounts of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and direct precursors at a key intermediate step."

What First Chemical, recently purchased by DuPont, fails to tell you is that this process was in fact being used by another of DuPont's plants.

It is being moved to Mississippi because DuPont had to pay a hefty fine for environmental violations imposed by the state where this process was previously used. DuPont knows that by moving the process here they will be moving it to a more DuPont-friendly environment.

On March 9, I was present at a meeting to discuss this issue.

First Chemical was represented by three of their executives, the "people and the environment" were represented by two members of the Sierra Club and me.

The First Chemical representatives briefed the process as outlined in their press release. They said that there would "only" be 1 to 2 pounds of PFOA residue released into the environment as wastewater per year.

When we emphasized that there was no way to determine how much it would take to be classified as a danger to citizens that might come in contact with this runoff, they said that there was no proof that PFOA was a health hazard. At this point I cited two reports that disputed that argument -- one by the Environmental Working Group that disputes point by point the argument made by DuPont that PFOA is not a carcinogen; the second is by the EPA itself. Until 2000 the 3M Corporation was the primary manufacturer of PFOA. In May of 2000 they announced that because of health concerns to their workers involved in this process, they were discontinuing the manufacturing of PFOA, at this point DuPont picked up the process.

You may recall that in October of 2002 First Chemical experienced an explosion that injured three of their workers and very nearly caused a major toxic chemical release when pieces of debris barely missed various storage tanks. In 2004 the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board released their findings. Among the findings were: ineffective or obsolete safety equipment; ineffective guidance to their employees on how to handle certain emergencies; obsolete equipment; and safety alarms not installed. I for one do not trust a company that will operate with faulty and obsolete equipment, to handle a process that involves chemicals as hazardous as this.

The Mississippi Gulf Coast is already listed by the EPA and other agencies as one of the most polluted areas in the United States. I urge you to call your local state and county representatives and tell them that you do not want another thing added to our community that will endanger our families.

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