Official Written Testimony
To Be Included For DEP Review Of
Occidental Chemical TVSOP 46-00015 Title V
In Addition To Public Hearing Comments From
January 31, 2001
Title V permits are about regulating air pollution at major sources of air pollution for the next five years. This is about a life support system, which we need for survival. Area residents have no choice. We are forced to breathe all the hazardous substances that DEP permits polluting industries to emit into our air. For several years ACE has been addressing our concerns about hazardous air emissions in this community and what we considered related health issues. Recent shocking statistics of increased cancers have verified our concerns about the enormous carcinogens put into our air and our now confirmed health crisis.
The cancer statistics ACE just revealed were available to DEP both from the CDC and the PA Cancer Registry. Still, DEP either did not look or chose not to deal with this information. Either scenario resulted in more harm to the health of more people, which is very evident if you are connected to this community. Ms. Carlini stated previously that “DeMinimis” Emission Increases could be denied in Title V permits if we could demonstrate they would bring harm to the health of people in our community. We believe the cancer statistics alone should say to DEP that all air emissions from such an enormous polluter of such hazardous air emissions should be SIGNIFICANTLY REDUCED, and “DeMinimis” Emission Increases must be denied.
Alarming cancer statistics were reported by the Montgomery County Health Department in January of 1998 (leukemia twice the rate of the entire state of PA, and lung and cervical cancers up to 33% higher than our tri-state area). Our protective agencies blamed the victims. This should have triggered further investigation and a total moratorium on any additional toxic air emissions in this community. In the age of the computer, it really should not have been that difficult to trace cancer, while many other illnesses are more difficult. These cancers were all elevated in the same general vicinity, including childhood cancer. Research that ACE sent to DEP previously documented these same cancers being elevated from air pollution around other hazardous waste sites. DEP chose not to conduct site specific research and proceeded to hand out a permit for more air pollution just two weeks later. Irresponsible decisions from DEP like that have caused our health crisis to get worse and worse.
It is long past time for DEP to take protective action and REDUCE all hazardous air emissions from all Title V permits in the Greater Pottstown Area, but especially from Occidental Chemical, which spews enormous amounts of carcinogens into our air every year. Occidental increased its Vinyl Chloride air emissions by 10,000 pounds from 1997 to 1999. This is an extremely hazardous chemical and a confirmed human carcinogen.
ACE has to question the effectiveness and resolve of DEP, our supposed protective agency, when DEP is willing to write a 5-year permit which would allow for shameful over-permitting of such a health threat in such a sick community. This is shameful! It was irresponsible for DEP to allow 200,000 pounds of Vinyl Chloride to be emitted each year in Occidental’s previous air permits, but it goes far beyond irresponsible to allow 200,000 pounds into this air in this community now in a five year permit. We remind DEP that we already breathe air in the TOP 10% in the entire nation for carcinogens released into our air and our significantly elevated cancers reflect the consequences.
What is DEP thinking, or isn’t this “PROTECTIVE” agency thinking at all? It actually should be considered criminal to permit even 130,000 pounds of such a hazardous carcinogen into our air every year for the next 5 years. 130,000 pounds of Vinyl Chloride is more than any other facility emitted in the nation in 1998. Why in the world would DEP allow Occidental to emit 200,000 pounds of Vinyl Chloride EVERY year for the next 5 years? We are angry and tired of being told that these permits reflect no changes, when they should. New information, common sense, and circumstances dictate that there should be significant changes, and these must be REDUCTIONS. When something presents confirmed harm to the health of people not only in our area, but throughout parts of the county as well, it is time for a protective agency to take protective action and make changes. This is especially applicable in a five-year air permit where the air is already in the TOP 10% of the most unhealthy air in the nation.
Vinyl Chloride is ranked the #1 cancer risk in Montgomery County and is found from 10 to 20 times higher than EPA health benchmarks in parts of Montgomery and Delaware Counties, with Occidental in Pottstown the only listed emitter. DEP should know how much damage this chemical can do to our health, and especially our children. In addition to cancer, Vinyl Chloride is suspected to be a cardiovascular or blood toxicant, a developmental toxicant, gastrointestinal toxicant, neurotoxicant, respiratory toxicant, and a skin or sense organ toxicant according to the 1998 TRI Human Health Hazard Information - Chemical Profile. According to ATSDR ToxFAQs, breathing high levels of Vinyl Chloride for short periods can cause dizziness, sleepiness, unconsciousness, and at extremely high levels can cause death. Breathing Vinyl Chloride for long periods of time can result in permanent liver damage, immune reactions, nerve damage, and liver cancer. ACE is aware of many people that live in this community who suffer from all of these symptoms and diseases. However, just based on our severely carcinogenic air and our seriously elevated cancers, DEP should rewrite this 5-year Title V permit to include SIGNIFICANT REDUCTIONS of Occidental’s actual Vinyl Chloride air emissions over the life of this 5-year permit. Vinyl Chloride is listed #4 on ATSDR’s TOP 20 HAZARDOUS SUBSTANCES list. This is a dangerous chemical. Without SIGNIFICANT REDUCTIONS in this extremely HAZARDOUS CARCINOGEN (Vinyl Chloride), our community will not have much hope or chance to recover from this chemical plague you have permitted in this area.
ACE is appalled that any “protective” agency could have ignored the health and safety of thousands of people by ignoring DIOXIN air emissions when discussing a 5-year air permit for Occidental Chemical in Pottstown, an enormous producer of PVC plastic. We do not want to hear about your rules and regulations which allow this most potent carcinogen and one of the most toxic chemicals ever produced to be ignored in a five year air permit for Occidental Chemical. Ignoring this major DIOXIN threat in a community already facing a serious health crisis is a perfect example of why DEP is an ineffective agency. DEP actually allows us to be hurt instead of trying to get regulations changed or making exceptions for extenuating circumstances, even when it is obvious that the regulations are outdated and unprotective. We are forced to breathe Occidental’s DIOXIN emissions every day. We do not have the luxury of ignoring them. Is DIOXIN a major factor in the significantly elevated cancers? We suspect it is. DIOXIN is a potent carcinogen. This is a dangerous hole of major proportions in the “so-called” protective system.
When PVC is produced or burned, DIOXIN is created. According to Greenpeace, PVC smokestacks create some of the largest DIOXIN problems. While PVC production effects are felt everywhere, people located where DIOXIN is produced are hit the hardest because they are forced to directly breathe the DIOXIN.
EPA says EXTREMELY SMALL DOSES of DIOXIN can result in hazards to human health and the environment. EPA confirms that DIOXIN is one of the most TOXIC carcinogens known to humans. DIOXIN can affect our bodies at parts per trillion. It accumulates and stores in our body fat, resulting in contamination levels many times greater than those found in the surrounding environment. EPA has concluded that levels of DIOXIN currently found in most adults and children, even those who do not live near PVC production facilities like we do, are already high enough to trigger significant health effects. DIOXIN is passed on to our children – our babies are born with DIOXIN their bodies. DIOXIN is not metabolized by humans and our bodies have no defense against it.
What are Occidental’s DIOXIN emissions doing to the people in our area? Perhaps this is another answer to all the staggering cancer increases. But, DIOXIN can also harm us in many other devastating ways. It can impact learning ability in our children and cause decreased IQ and hyperactivity. DIOXIN can cause increased susceptibility to infections in our children exposed to background levels. DIOXIN can impact thyroid and liver functions and cause adverse impacts on human metabolism. DIOXIN can adversely impact developmental and/or reproductive biology. It can cause infertility. DIOXIN has been linked with altered levels of male hormones, miscarriages and infant deaths, birth defects, low birth weight and growth retardation. DIOXIN has been linked with increased diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, respiratory cancers and soft tissue sarcoma. According to animal studies DIOXIN has been linked to endometriosis, demasculization, and increased susceptibility to bacteria, viruses and immune system suppressions. There can be no question in the mind of any unbiased individual who has seriously evaluated the massive DIOXIN research, that DIOXIN is one of the most dangerous health threats in the world, but especially in this area.
If DEP can not measure DIOXIN releases from Occidental, or if DEP can not guarantee our safety from the ravages of DIOXIN, DEP should not simply IGNORE this threat. With our community already in a serious health crisis, DEP should do the moral, decent, and responsible thing by applying the PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE to this decision concerning a 5-year air permit for Occidental Chemical in Pottstown, where DIOXIN is a realistic and major part of the significant health threat from this major pollution source.
If DEP continues to allow business as usual or increased production at Occidental in Pottstown, our community may be the next community to need to be evacuated like several others in our country from DIOXIN. This is a very real risk from Occidental, but if you add the risk from the medical waste incinerator just ½ mile away, and as many as 4 or 5 other DIOXIN sources within about 5 miles away, the risk of evacuation becomes greatly magnified. Who would pay relocation costs for the tens of thousands of people who may need to be evacuated? This is not a rural area. It is densely populated. We could conceivably lose our only hospital. Entire buildings have needed to be torn down.
DEP, if you do not find a way to protect us from Occidental Chemical’s DIOXIN EMISSIONS, we will hold the individuals associated with this 5-year permit at DEP, as well as the agency itself, responsible for all the devastating health consequences caused to each individual in this community by Occidental’s PVC production. The more Vinyl Chloride air emissions DEP permits over the next 5 years, the more DIOXIN emissions we will have to breathe.
People in this community are severely at risk already. Our bodies have been overloaded with far too much DIOXIN for too many years. Obviously we can’t be healthy with what we are currently forced to breathe. Virtually all of the products made of PVC have safer substitutes available, making our severe health risks from the DIOXIN produced by PVC production at Occidental in Pottstown completely unnecessary and unacceptable. We need DEP to protect us from this devastating chemical NOW in Occidental’s five year Title V permit!
For the viable future of our children and our community, we ask DEP to announce a PVC “sunset” program at Occidental in Pottstown, that would reduce the production and use of PVC to zero over the life of this 5 year permit.
Occidental’s Additional TOXIC Chemicals
and Their Known and Suspected Health Effects
from Occidental’s TRI Data for 1998
and Environmental Defense Scorecard Information
It is significant to note that the information listed below does not include DIOXIN!
Occidental in Pottstown ranks in the top 10% in the U.S. for AIR RELEASES of recognized carcinogens. It doesn’t take a scientist to notice a pattern! Montgomery county ranks in the top 10% for recognized carcinogens into the air also and we have staggering cancer increases. Obviously Occidental is a major factor in all of this. In addition to Vinyl Chloride increases into our air from 1997 to 1999, Occidental almost tripled Acetaldehyde air emissions, another carcinogen. This alone is bad enough, but we remind DEP this is added to two other significant carcinogenic air emissions, Vinyl Chloride and DIOXIN. All of this is added to radiation and other carcinogenic cocktails of major proportions. Our cancer statistics should not be a mystery to DEP or anyone else. The main unanswered question is, what is DEP going to do about it?
According to 1998 TRI Data, Occidental Chemical in Pottstown released air pollution of major proportions. These air emissions have suspected health effects, which we are convinced are suffered by too many people in our area. Just in one year, 1998, Occidental emitted into our air over 200,000 pounds of chemicals for EACH of the following health consequences; Neurotoxicants, Respiratory Illnesses, and those that affect our Skin or Sense Organs. Occidental also emitted into our air well over 100,000 pounds in 1998 for EACH of the following health threats; Cardiovascular or blood toxicants, developmental toxicants, gastrointestinal or liver toxicants, and Reproductive Toxicants.
As horrible as the above information is, there are other unidentified health threats associated with Occidental’s Releases into our AIR in addition to the unknown amounts of DIOXIN. 32% or 67,000 pounds of Occidental’s AIR Releases of Noncancer Health Effects are without the information necessary for safety assessment.
Are these health risks something that area residents can afford to have increased by even one pound? Shouldn’t DEP be requiring REDUCTIONS in all air emissions from Occidental, which is such a known major health threat to such a sick community?
There is no question that the other TRI chemicals, such as Ammonia, Vinyl Acetate, and Hydrochloric Acid are TOXIC and Hazardous. They appear on government’s own regulated and hazardous substance lists, and would not have to be reported to EPA’s “TOXIC RELEASE INVENTORY” if they were not a dangerous threat. We remind DEP that all of it is additive to every breath we take.
‘Criteria’ Air Pollution
“DeMinimis” Emissions Increases are listed in the Title V permit with specific amounts of increases over the life of the 5-year permit, yet DEP and Occidental keep claiming that these are not increases. Amazing! WHY then are they called “INCREASES” in the permit and why are specific amounts listed in TONS of each ‘Criteria’ air pollutant? WHY then did Ms. Carlini say that if we could prove these “INCREASES” could present harm to the health of the people in our community that these “INCREASES” could be denied by DEP?
ACE has included specific evidence in the ‘Criteria’ Air Emission section of this testimony concerning the health harm caused for each of these ‘Criteria’ air pollutants listed to be increased in the Title V permit for Occidental Chemical in Pottstown. We have used government’s own research for our facts about the harm to our health that these pollutants can and do cause. ACE has also produced statistics that show us to already be suffering a health crisis. This should be more than enough reason for DEP to DENY “DeMinimis” emission increases.
However, in addition to ‘Criteria’ air emissions, we are forced to breathe all of Occidental’s emissions at the same time. ACE has produced evidence that the Vinyl Chloride and DIOXIN spewed out into our air from Occidental are more than enough to destroy the health of many in our community, especially our children. One ounce more of any kind of pollutant is too much for the multitudes of people who live too close to Occidental!
In addition, when DEP is not denying that these increases exist in the Title V permit even though they are listed, DEP has referred to “DeMinimis” emission increases as insignificant. If these “INCREASES” are insignificant, why not change them to “DECREASES” in the Title V permit? Wouldn’t that be more fitting and in line with the clear intention of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards of the Clean Air Act?
We request that in the Occidental Chemical and all Title V permits in the Greater Pottstown Area that “DeMinimis Emissions Increases” be changed to “DeMinimis Emissions DECREASES.” We base this request on the fact that we are in a SEVERE NON-ATTAINMENT AREA based on our severely unhealthy air and health standards, the intention of the Clean Air Act to reduce ‘Criteria’ air pollutants, and the significantly elevated illness patterns of people in our community.
We further request that DEP require SIGNIFICANT REDUCTIONS of ‘Criteria’ Air Emissions over the life of this Title V, 5-year permit for Occidental, especially VOC’s. We base this request on our right to clean air under the PA Constitution and DEP’s mission statement to provide for our health and safety and to protect our air.
Title V Permit – 46-00015
Frankly, we were astounded when we realized that a DEP employee actually assists industry and helps to write these Title V permits, air pollution permits, for all these major pollution sources.
Working so closely with the polluting industries, how could DEP possibly be objective? In fact, how could DEP be the public’s watchdog, in this major 5-year permitting decision, when it comes to protecting the public’s air for the next five years?
Why is the public paying to write permit applications for major polluting industries who have massive resources to pay their own employees to do this? This is infuriating! This is a disgrace! It seems to us that it should be DEP’s job to objectively evaluate these 5-year permits for hazardous air pollutants, in terms of their adverse impacts to public health and safety, as well as the environment. If DEP employees are working for these major polluting industries like Occidental Chemical, then they should be paid directly by them.
What a comedy of errors, or were they? ACE has obtained 3 different versions of the draft permit. How are we to know which one we are to comment on? There are significant differences, and in one version while page numbers did not reflect it, an important section was missing. What confusion! In the first place, we would like to know why DEP has made changes to the original draft permit application, requested by the applicant, before the end of the review process for the public. DEP has already rewritten the draft to accommodate Occidental. Some observers have suggested that taking public comment is a farce to the process. While this is about the very air we will be forced to breathe for the next 5 years, public comment apparently means very little to the decision process of DEP. Just as we thought!
This “protective” agency was created to protect the public and the environment from the polluters. Apparently DEP has decided to assist the polluters to get whatever they need instead. This goes beyond danger!
DEP should have made changes to protect the public before the original draft permit was considered. These changes should have required such things as REDUCTIONS, or improvements such as reliable monitoring for these 5-year air permits which will greatly impact air quality and health for the next 5 years. People who live in SEVERE Non-Attainment Areas need special consideration, not boiler plate permits which ignore the contaminated air and sick people. To simply combine existing permits and allow business as usual for the next five years is NOT ACCEPTABLE in an area like ours with significantly elevated serious illnesses.
It should not be the job of the public to defend itself against a chemical plague, such as that which exists in our area. That is what DEP is paid to do. It is no wonder our air is among the most unhealthy in the nation and that we are so sick. We not only have to defend ourselves against the polluters, we also are forced to spend enormous amounts of time, money, and energy to defend ourselves against our own state’s “protective” agency. Ironic! What is really puzzling is that it is your air too!
DEP should be doing the same kind of rigorous evaluation ACE has done for this 5–year permit to determine what kind of improvements need to be made on behalf of public health and safety. WHY isn’t DEP doing what the public expects for their money? WHY isn’t DEP following its own mission statement, which is the purpose of its creation? Writing 5-year air pollution permits that simply combine old expiring permits will force us to breathe even more dangerous air in the next 5 years and more people needlessly suffer and die, including our children. Is this the result DEP wants in this community as a direct result of its permitting decision?
We object to a 5-year air permit, which prolongs the lives of existing permits without a proper evaluation of the situation at hand. DEP is in essence adding air pollution by extending permits. To say you are just combining them is a dangerous regulatory game. Each year of extension adds more air pollution to our already severely contaminated air, no matter how you look at it. Occidental told us there were about 6 permits to be combined, but only sent us 3 (however, we have gotten more cooperation from Occidental, than we have gotten from DEP in the past).
Two of Occidental’s permits would have expired in the fall of this year. That means that the air pollution on these permits would be extended for the full five years and that could mean devastation for the people in our area. For example, in the case of Vinyl Chloride, Occidental would be permitted by DEP to put ONE MILLION POUNDS of this extremely hazardous chemical into our air in the next 5 years if this Title V permit is issued as written. The other permit we obtained would expire in 2002, extending that one 4 years.
EXTENDING EXISTING PERMITS without proper evaluation of all circumstances and exposure health threats is dangerous and thoughtless, especially for one that will last 5 years. That is frightening considering there are many people who believe we are looking at the tip of the iceberg concerning our health threats from the damage that has already been done here by DEP’s previous permitting processes. Now is the time for DEP to REDUCE this threat to our community in the most protective way, despite the fact that should have already been done since DEP was involved in writing the Title V permit. What is wrong with DEP? Why is there no caring or common sense thinking? This is not simply about dotting I’s and crossing T’s on application forms. This is about the health and lives of multitudes of people for the next five years.
These permits should not be extended as they exist for this area. Circumstances have changed drastically, and more knowledge has been gained about the dangers of these exposures, since the existing air permits were issued. None of this information has been taken into account. Irresponsible and negligent permitting by DEP needs to be reevaluated. We urge DEP to join the “TOXIC TURNAROUND” efforts of the public in this area to try to cope with our severe overexposure. We need DEP to DENY ANY INCREASES in this Title V permit as well as require SIGNIFICANT REDUCTIONS. PLEASE help save this overburdened TOXIC COMMUNITY. Our air, our soil, our water, and consequently our health have been severely damaged and in many cases destroyed, by TOXIC AIR RELEASES. It is imperative that DEP help us turn the tide right now. We can not wait 5 years.
Questions and Comments
ACE requests that DEP answer all specific comments and questions of Tina Daly and Kurt Hepler concerning this permit application for Occidental Chemical.
#017 Authorization for DeMinimis Emission “Increases”
It is clearly stated on Page 18 that the Department may disapprove DeMinimis Emission Increases at any time. ACE urges DEP to disapprove DeMinimis Emission Increases before the permit is issued. Occidental emits into a SEVERE Non-Attainment area. Under the Clean Air Act, National Ambient Air Quality Standards based on health call for REDUCTIONS of ‘Criteria’ air pollutant emissions, especially in SEVERE Non-Attainment areas. This five-year permit is for a major source, if not the largest source, of pollution in this area. It is difficult to understand why DEP would even consider increases of any amount. We can not have even one pound more of any pollutant put into our air from this major polluter of our air. This is the biggest polluter of the most hazardous carcinogen in the county. Occidental also emits enormous amounts of many other dangerous pollutants. Our community is in a health crisis as stated earlier. If authorization for DeMinimis Emissions is left in this permit we request that they be changed to “REDUCTIONS” instead of Increases. Based on all the circumstances, a Title V permit for Occidental that does not include REDUCTIONS of harmful air emissions over the next five years is absolutely unjustified.
While DeMinimis Emissions Increases are listed in this permit in tons per year, total current permitted amounts of each ‘criteria’ air pollutant are not clearly identified. We object! Amounts of each ‘criteria’ air pollutant should be identified in this 5-year permit, so the public can add them up and determine just how much of each pollutant we will be breathing over the next five years.
ACE requests that all permit modifications for this 5-year air permit be required to have full public disclosure, and full public comment on the record at a public hearing. We have no confidence in the ability of DEP to recognize harm to our health in permit modifications. DEP has not paid close enough attention to the full consequences of permit wording or intentions for safe-guarding our future. DEP decisions have led us to the horrific state of our air and our health.
ACE requests that ALL changes throughout this 5 year permit be considered major and the public be notified and given the opportunity to fully participate in any decision making process on the record. Any changes made at the company that would impact the air pollution from this facility need to be addressed by the public. We are referring especially, but not limited to, the changing of fuel.
ACE requests that DEP remove all sections of this 5-year permit, which would permit Occidental to burn toxic Pottstown Landfill gas as fuel. There is no question that Pottstown Landfill gas is extremely toxic. There is no question that what Occidental now emits into our air poses a significant health threat to all those who are forced to breathe these emissions. Occidental would have to triple hazardous air emissions to burn this toxic gas and would be adding still another source of dangerous DIOXIN. We do not believe that Occidental should be permitted to change fuels at such a risk to the public. Over 31,000 people live within just a 2 mile radius of Occidental and many more live beyond. Our only hospital is within ½ mile of Occidental’s emissions. Many people who work at and visit the vast numbers of businesses and professional buildings which are also within ½ mile of Occidental would be exposed to even more. But, most especially, there are very many schools and day care centers extremely close to Occidental’s emissions, which are already too dangerous for these children. It would be absolutely negligent to allow a permit to be written with any loophole that would put the health of all these people, and especially our children, further at risk from the increased hazardous emissions and DIOXIN inevitable from burning toxic landfill gas as fuel. DEP can not let this happen!
Section B #021 Sampling, Testing, and Monitoring Procedures
ACE is requesting continuous perimeter monitoring by DEP, for all listed chemicals as well as DIOXIN. Comprehensive monitoring and disclosure are key issues to protection of the people in our community. Self -testing and emissions monitoring and analysis are absolutely unacceptable when these emissions involve hazardous substances known to cause cancer and other serious health problems. We have a right to know immediately what is emitted into our air on a continuous basis. ACE asks that DEP’s monitoring be paid by Occidental.
ACE requests immediate reporting of all violations to the public. This is the only way we will really know how much of Occidental’s dangerous chemicals are getting into the air we breathe and the only hope we have of trying to protect ourselves and our children from those harmful air emissions.
Fines for Violations and Accidental Releases - Checks and balances in place are not protective. Occidental has far too many dangerous hazardous accidental releases into our air, for which there are far too little, if any, penalties. Just from January 8, 1994 to January 19, of 1999, Occidental had 16 reported violations. Of those 16, DEP fined Occidental on only 2 of those, each for only $2,000 dollars. This is disgraceful! ACE requests that DEP issue huge monetary fines for ALL of these dangerous accidents and violations including those reported by Occidental and those that will be discovered through DEP’s continuous perimeter monitoring. Occidental having to pay excessive fines for accidents and violations could provide greater protection for the public in two ways – 1. Incentive to cut back on emissions and be more careful about accidental releases; 2. The affected public could be given the money from the fines to be used for the community’s protection.
We are convinced that comprehensive and continuous perimeter monitoring is the only answer to knowing the truth about what is released into our air from Occidental. The current system is absolutely not protective. DEP currently relies on Occidental reporting their own violations. We feel confident this is not always happening. Many releases have been noticed by the community but not reported nor investigated.
DEP relies on the numbers of community phone calls as to whether to come out to investigate an accidental release. WHY? This is not protective action. When an investigation takes place it happens far too long after the release to know the truth. In addition, instead of science, DEP relies on sniffer-certified individuals, not science to determine the facts. How could DEP possibly determine what and how much was released into our air without testing immediately with scientific means? Days after the incident very little can be accurately determined, especially without science. This is not protective.
“The permitee is not required to pay an emission fee for emissions of more than 4,000 tons of regulated pollutants from the facility” - This is insanity. Why would they be allowed to emit this much in the first place? These are things that can harm the health of tens of thousand of people, including our children. The more they emit, the more they should have to pay.
It is obvious that we can not rely on DEP to take immediate action. Then when DEP does investigate days later, to ask Occidental if they caused a problem and then take their word for it is ridiculous. To rely on Occidental’s Community Advisory Panel for complaints seems a bit naive. This process is ridiculous and not protective. It is time to look at a solution that will be protective. If only one person takes the time and effort to call about what could be hazardous air emissions from Occidental, such a threat should be investigated. In order to determine what and how much was released, DEP would have to come immediately with testing equipment. This is not happening, and in fact may not be practical nor possible. These releases by Occidental present major threats to the health of thousands of people. We believe because what Occidental releases can cause so much harm to our health, and because there are so many schools so close to Occidental and because over 31,000 residents live even within 2 miles, that comprehensive and continuous perimeter monitoring (including DIOXIN) is warranted and crucial to our protection and safety. It does not seem possible or practical for DEP or the public to be sure what is going on any other way.
All of DEP’s monitoring information must be made available to the public immediately upon request.
On July 1 and 2, 2000, Occidental had a 1350 POUND “ACCIDENTAL” DISCHARGE of Vinyl Chloride. This kind of a release is a serious threat to our health. We believe a significant monetary fine is in order to try to keep this kind of thing from ever happening again. This kind of ACCIDENT is not acceptable.
Section B #022 ACE requests that records on hazardous air emissions from Occidental Chemical which could affect the health of people far into the future must be kept LONGER than 5 years.
Section B #025 Operational Flexibility
ACE strenuously objects to “OPERATIONAL FLEXIBILITY” for this facility with so much potential to harm our health, safety, and welfare. This is a great risk for the public. We request that this be disallowed. Why should Occidental be allowed to choose any alternatives for running the facility when these alternatives could cause even more risk to the public.
Section B # 27 Emission Trading Programs
ACE objects to emission trading. This is dealing with hazardous air emissions which threaten the health of the people who are forced to breathe these toxic emissions. There should not be over-permitting of dangerous chemicals especially in a SEVERE Non-Attainment area such this area. We have previously identified the serious and numerous health risks associated with Occidental’s emissions. DEP must eliminate the possibility of Occidental trading any hazardous air emissions for any reason under any circumstances. ACE also feels it is imperative that DEP reduce Occidental’s Vinyl Chloride emissions in this 5-year permit to a minimum of 130,000 pounds a year, and reduce this amount lower than 130,000 pounds for each remaining year for the life of this 5-year permit.
Section B #028
“Permit shields” should NOT be issued in this 5-year permit. The public deserves a right to participate in any way necessary to protect their future. We remind DEP that Occidental is located in a Severe Non-Attainment area with far too many health problems.
Section C #001
“The permittee may not permit the presence in the outdoor atmosphere of any form of contaminant, including, but not limited to, the discharging from stacks, or any other source in place, manner or concentration inimical or which may be inimical to public health, safety, or welfare or which may be injurious to human, plant or animal life or to property or which unreasonably interferes with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property.” This is a protective regulation that is currently being violated in many ways. Occidental emits enormous amounts of hazardous chemicals off their property which violate this regulation. How does DEP plan to bring Occidental in compliance with these regulations for the next five years?
Section C #002
ACE requests that listed items in this section NOT be exempted. Manufacturing at this location involves many materials of great concern and all must be included. None of this can be considered of minor significance when added to all the rest.
“The emissions are of minor significance with respect to causing air pollution;” and
“The emissions are not preventing or interfering with the attainment or maintenance of any ambient air quality standard.” It should be assumed that there is no way Occidental’s emissions can follow these regulations currently. How will DEP guarantee the community that these regulations will be followed over the next 5 years?
Section C #007
Occidental Chemical released 130,000 pounds of Vinyl Chloride in 1999, a 10,000 pound increase over 1997. According to the Environmental Defense Scorecard, in 1998 Occidental in Pottstown released more Vinyl Chloride than any other facility in the nation when they emitted 121, 500 pounds of Vinyl Chloride into our air.
To remind DEP, Vinyl Chloride is identified as a human health hazard. Vinyl Chloride is a known human carcinogen. Vinyl Chloride is a suspected cardiovascular or blood toxicant, gastrointestinal or liver toxicant, developmental toxicant, neurotoxicant, reproductive toxicant, respiratory toxicant and a skin or sense organ toxicant.
Vinyl Chloride is the # 1 CANCER risk in Montgomery County, a county where cancer increases are already staggering. Montgomery County is already in the TOP 10% for cancer causing air emissions in the nation. Occidental is the only listed emitter of Vinyl Chloride in the county and Vinyl Chloride has been reported to be 10 to 20 times higher than EPA’s health benchmarks.
It is beyond comprehension that DEP would simply continue to allow Occidental Chemical to be permitted for 100 TONS or 200,000 pounds of Vinyl Chloride every year for the next five years in this Title V permit. This is the ultimate in unprotective decision making from this “protective agency.” This shows DEP’s total lack of careful consideration to the details of dangerous pollution permits.
Based on the facts concerning Vinyl Chloride, Occidental Chemical, Montgomery County Statistics, and the health crisis in our community, we need ZERO Vinyl Chloride emissions for the next five years. Instead of OVER-PERMITTING for such a dangerous and hazardous chemical, the least this “protective agency” can do is require SIGNIFICANT REDUCTIONS OF ACTUAL EMISSIONS (significantly less than 130,000 pounds) EVERY YEAR FOR THE LIFE OF THE PERMIT.
Our health crisis and our severely carcinogenic and contaminated air demand that DEP protect us from this horrific carcinogen, Vinyl Chloride. We can not tolerate any carcinogens spewed into our air. DEP, it is obviously long past time for you to follow your own missions statement to protect our air and provide for our health and safety, as well as obey the PA State Constitution which gives us the right to clean air.
Section C #012
a. ACE requests that HAPs, VOC’s, and DIOXIN also be monitored.
b. ACE requests that all be reported to the public.
Section C #015
a. We do not believe all odor violations were reported to DEP by Occidental in the past. How can DEP decide if odors are malodors when it takes the Department sometimes days before it investigates an odor complaint? By that time there is no way for DEP to determine whether they were malodors or not. This is ridiculous. The Department is not in this community to make any such determination about malodors.
ACE also wants to know the exact chemical composition of any and all odor control materials used at Occidental.
Section C #025
While we agree that it is imperative to prevent particulate matter from becoming airborne, we do not believe that “all reasonable actions to prevent” is sufficient. Particulate matter can carry with it extremely dangerous DIOXIN and other chemicals. We believe DEP should expect ZERO particulate matter and issue severe financial fines for particulate matter emissions.
In addition, we strenuously object to “suitable chemicals” for control of dust, as these chemicals could also cause health harm and even further contaminate soil and water. ACE objects to using chemicals to control dust on dirt roads.
ACE requests the term “reasonable times” be changed throughout this permit. This is far too vague when discussing many of the serious implications of the running of this dangerous facility. We believe that “reasonable times” should instead be reworded to say immediate or on demand and without cause. This would be far more protective.
ACE believes that the Occidental Title V permit as written is absolutely unprotective for the public health and safety of the thousands of people and children in our community who will suffer from the consequences of this permit. Included in this book of testimony are many facts about the seriously dangerous chemicals emitted into the air from Occidental Chemical in Pottstown. ACE expects that all information in this book will be given serious consideration, and that the crucial issues and concerns that we have raised will be addressed adequately by DEP. Based on all issues discussed in this testimony, we believe it is imperative for this permit to be rewritten to include the comprehensive checks and balances we have recommended. Our CANCER STATISTICS are identified in this book. These alone dictate special and unique consideration in any five year air permit, but most especially at Occidental Chemical, which emits more of the most carcinogenic air than any other facility in Montgomery County. WE remind DEP that we are in a SEVERE Non-Attainment area and that we already have the TOP 10% of the most unhealthy air in the nation. It is critical for us to get SIGNIFICANT REDUCTIONS in ALL hazardous air emissions that can harm our health in this and every other 5-year air permit for this area. We urge DEP to join our entire community and support our TOXIC TURNAROUND in an effort to help save this community from complete destruction. Our hope and our lives are in your hands.
P.O. Box 3063
Stowe, PA 19464
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