RESERVE, La. (WGNO) — A settlement has been reached in a federal lawsuit that aims to reduce carcinogen emissions in a portion of Louisiana locally referred to as “Cancer Alley.”
On Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a settlement with German-based chemical company Evonik Corporation, which has locations in Westwego, Reserve, and Garyville. The EPA claims the agreement reached will reduce air pollutants by more than 5 1/2 tons per year at the company’s facility in St. John the Baptist Parish.
EPA officials say data was collected through pollution monitoring and real-time inspections in 2022 as part of the agency’s Pollution Accountability Team, which requires chemical plants nationwide to measure hazardous compounds that cross property lines, then reduce them when they are too high. The program was designed by the EPA based on the concerns of area residents.
As part of the settlement, Evonik has and will replace several pieces of equipment linked to the large emissions, as well as implement an enhanced leak detection and repair program designed to minimize the release of harmful chemicals.
This includes ethylene oxide, an industrial chemical used to produce other materials, namely plastic products. According to the EPA, the chemical is a carcinogen that, if inhaled, could greatly increase the risk of breast and lymphoid cancer.
The settlement is expected to reduce the emission of hazardous chemicals by 5.6 tons annually, which includes 2.16 tons of ethylene alone.
Along with a $75,000 penalty, the settlement also requires Evonik to implement a $335,000 project that will install a Vapor Recovery System to capture and reroute the harmful chemicals as trucks load and unload. The project will be in place no later than December of 2026 and is expected to reduce emissions by an additional 2.6 tons annually.
Louisiana Congressman Troy Carter commented on the settlement, saying it will help make St. John the Baptist Parish a healthier place for the people who live there.
“We cannot have a healthy society without a healthy environment,” Carter said in a statement. “For my constituents, this is their home, and it is the primary duty of government to ensure that people are safe and protected in their communities. We must continue to find solutions that can provide a clean environment alongside industry. I’m pleased that this settlement will reduce air toxics for the people of St. John the Baptist parish.”