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A Community Being Poisoned from Within

Last year, the EPA proposed an air rule that would finally limit the amount of cancer-causing chemicals residents in Mossville, Louisiana would have to breathe from the polyvinyl chloride plant nearby. So it came as a blow when the EPA released a final rule that imposes weaker limits at the CertainTeed plant in Mossville—a facility that emits 19 tons of poisonous air pollutants a year.

Turns out we aren’t the only ones finding fault in the EPA’s behavior, as seen in this gripping Huffington Post story detailing the stark reality of a community being destroyed by the toxic fumes it breathes.

The piece mentions our lawsuit and petition for reconsideration filed this week, but more notably, reveals how residents in this historic black community have unjustly shouldered the burden of breathing in cancer-causing air from a dozen industrial facilities. This is especially outrageous given an EPA administrator who recognizes that communities like Mossville are especially susceptible to increased toxic pollution.

Out of the total 17 PVC facilities in the country, EPA’s finalized standards are much weaker at the Mossville facility as well as a Deer Park, Texas plant.

EPA inexplicably decided to give less protection to communities where significant African American, Latino, and lower income populations will be exposed the most to high levels of toxic air pollution. That’s the opposite of environmental justice.

Earthjustice’s Jim Pew is quoted saying: “For reasons mystifying to us, the EPA singled out these two communities for weak standards, including this one community we were really trying to help. Nobody is really asking the right questions in terms of protecting this community.”

Unusually high rates of cancer, lung and respiratory disease abound. According to the Huffington Post, two federal surveys found that the average resident of Mossville carries three times the concentration of dioxins as a typical American. Dangerous levels of dioxins also have been found in fish. And separate studies found that dioxins are in indoor dust and yard soil where Mossville children play.

The effects of breathing poisonous air is punctuated in the story of lifelong resident Christine Bennett, who has myriad health issues but didn’t talk about hers. Instead she mentioned her niece, who underwent surgery to treat cancer in her right cheek. “Imagine coming up in this world with your face disfigured. She has to live with this the rest of her life. She can’t afford plastic surgery.”

Why is this happening in Mossville? Dorothy Felix of Mossville Environmental Action Now (MEAN) said: “We are an African-American community. They prey on communities like this. But we are going to continue to fight until they hear our voices and until justice is served.”

Tags:  Clean Air Act

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