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Louisville chemical company seeks permit allowing increased toxic air emissions – 89.3 WFPL News Louisville

A Louisville-based chemical company with a history of environmental violations applied for a permit that would allow it to slightly increase the risk of cancer to the surrounding community.

The company, Clariant Corporation, manufactures catalysts that speed up chemical reactions. It is located in the Park Hill neighborhood near 12th and West Oak streets.

In June, the company applied for a permit from the Louisville Air Pollution Control District, the city’s air pollution regulators, to replace older equipment. Clariant’s new equipment has the potential to increase air emissions of harmful pollutants, including particulates, nitrogen oxides and hexavalent chromium — a known carcinogen made famous by the film and activist of the same name, Erin Brockovich.

Clariant currently poses the highest risk to human health of the 89 facilities that release toxic air emissions in Jefferson County, according to the EPA. In a statement, a company spokesperson said the new equipment will improve the flexibility of its operations during maintenance, which only takes place about two weeks a year. As a result, the company said it was committed to meeting its previous total cancer risk target of 1 in a million.

Louisville residents can comment publicly and request a license hearing until August 15.

“We certainly understand that most, if not all, neighbors don’t want to see an increase and would really like to see a decrease,” said Matt King, APCD’s industrial permits manager. “The Clean Air Act was really put in place to allow expansions and increases without an obligation to reduce emissions.

The license would allow Clariant to increase the cancer risk to the surrounding community at its 12th Street plant by approximately 1.3 to 2.07 in a million. This means that if one million people were exposed to this concentration continuously for 70 years, two of them would probably get cancer from this exposure, according to Cancer risk assessment of APCD.

Emissions from nearby facilities, combined with mobile sources like cars and planes, increase the total cancer risk to about 32 in a million for those same neighborhoods around Clariant (without the new permit levels). According to an EPA Environmental Justice report, this area has one of the highest increases in cancers in the state.

This EPA map shows a one-mile ring around Clariant Corporation in the Park Hill neighborhood near 12th and West Oak streets.

About 15,000 people live within a mile of the facility in Clariant’s permit application. Almost two-thirds of them are black. At least 68% of people living nearby are considered low income.

Offenses and fines

Over the past seven years, Clariant has paid $558,000 in fines for nearly a dozen violations, including releasing visible plumes of nitrogen oxides, which can cause acid rain.

The company had until June to pay nearly $500,000 for its most recent violations, including failing to meet “numerous license conditions related to maintenance, inspection, registration, notification, calculation and general operating rules”, according to the APCD. council order agreed.

However, Clariant’s history of violations does not affect the APCD’s decision to issue the permit as long as the company continues to remedy its violations and pay its fines.

“Allowing is not the tool to fix violations,” King said. “But there are ways violations could impact permitting, certainly with ongoing, known and currently unfixed excess emissions, we would be very reluctant to consider a new permit.”

Clariant uses catalysts like those pictured to speed up chemical reactions.

The public can use the comment period to review the permit and catch any errors the APCD might have made, such as calculating the wrong limit or missing a requirement. King said he recognized it was an incredibly difficult task for an ordinary person.

But any comments would be added to the public record, made available to the APCD’s board of directors, and could help guide future discussions on emissions limits, he said.

The APCD legally allows facilities to increase cancer risk by up to one in a million for each pollutant they release or 7.5 in a million for all pollutants released at a facility.

The APCD regulates Clariant and similar companies through the Strategic Toxic Air Reduction program, which works with companies to address toxic air pollution. Since the program began in 2005, toxic pollution has dropped by around 70%, according to APCDthe website of.

For example, the city’s chemical facility corridor known as Rubbertown had an increased cancer risk as high as 355 in a million as recently as 2005, according to the APCD. However, the STAR program, which only saw the light of day because of community advocacythis risk has dropped to a maximum of 12 in a million.

Louisville residents can comment publicly and request a permit hearing until August 15.

This story has been updated with a statement from Clariant Corporation.