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beaumont, TX

ExxonMobil Beaumont, TX Polyethylene Plant Plant-wide Failure

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Emergency dispatchers Thursday received numerous calls about flaring at The ExxonMobil Beaumont, TX Refinery & Chemical complex. Just as I was leaving a meeting in Houston, TX to work with leaders about chemical refineries and oil/gas pipelines this horrible situation happened.

The flaring is the result of power outages in the area.  Beaumont Fire Rescue told 12News it was notified by ExxonMobil that its Beaumont facility had 8 flares going to help maintain safety levels because of the outages.

Plant officials had this to say, “This is ExxonMobil Beaumont Polyethylene Plant on Highway 90 an EXXONMOBIL Beaumont Refinery & Chemical Complex. We can confirm that a plant-wide power failure resulted in significant flaring. We can confirm that non-essential personnel have been dismissed per protocol and are actively engaged at the complex with the goal of returning to normal operations.”

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Styrofoam Ban in our Nation’s Capital

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On January 1, 2016 a ban on the use of Styrofoam containers went into effect in the city of Washington, DC.  This new law will prohibit restaurants and local business from using single use Styrofoam (technically speaking, expanded polystyrene foam products) containers to package food and drinks, typically used for take-out orders or to take home leftovers. According to one estimate in a private blog, there are similar bans in effect in more than 70 cities including New York, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle.  In New York City alone, 28,500 tons of expanded Styrofoam was collected in 2012. About 90% of this material was from food and drink related containers.

I couldn’t help but smile when I read this story as a remembered back in the late 1980s when CHEJ (then CCHW) kicked off a national campaign against McDonald’s to get the mega food giant to stop using Styrofoam clam shells for all its food packaging. We called this the “McToxics Campaign” and groups all over the country participated including grassroots environmental health activists, students, churches, annual rights activists and advocates of healthy food. These groups, individually and in coalition, picketed local restaurants, fought for local ordinances banning Styrofoam, launched boycotts and engaged in send-it-back campaigns to send the message to McDonalds that they wanted the company to be a corporate leader for positive change, rather than a symbol of our throw-away society.  And it worked!  After a little over 3 years, McDonalds caved in, marking one of the biggest victories of the grassroots environmental health movement. On November 1, 1990, McDonalds’ announced it would end nearly all Styrofoam packaging use in U.S. restaurants within 60 days.

As anticipated, when McDonalds made its announcement, other companies would follow its lead. Jack-In-the-Box followed suit almost immediately, and soon most other fast food restaurants also stopped using Styrofoam.  Although many small restaurants and local businesses continued to use Styrofoam, the message continues to grow that this toxic plastic has no place in our society. The many toxic substances generated and released during production, the formation of toxic chemicals when it is burned and the difficulties in recycling and disposal of this material is what drove this campaign and continue to be an issue today as restaurants and businesses search for options to deliver food and drinks.

Fortunately there are better options and better alternatives that don’t cause the public health and environmental risks that this plastic does. Cheers to the growing list of cities, towns and municipalities that are deciding one jurisdiction at a time, to move away from this toxic plastic.  May there be many more in the coming years.

China Explosion

Fear of Toxic Air and Distrust of Government Follow Tianjin Blasts

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Within minutes of the immense chemical explosions that sent apocalyptic fireballs into the night sky over Tianjin, Zhou Haisen, 23, was making arrangements to leave town. He was terrified that poisonous gases would reach his apartment six miles from the scene, and his fears were swiftly reinforced by posts on Chinese social media. So he and his parents fled to his grandmother’s house an hour’s drive away. Read the full story in the New York Times .

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Environmental Justice Report: 81% Of Products Tested At U.S. Dollar Stores Are Unsafe

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AUSTIN, Texas — On July 1, activists gathered at dollar stores nationally to declare their “independence” from toxic chemicals, after a report earlier this year suggested products sold by these discount chains could be hurting consumers. To produce the report, issued in February by Environmental Justice for All’s Campaign for Healthier Solutions, researchers tested 164 products from multiple discount chain stores nationwide and found that 133 contained “at least one hazardous chemical above levels of concern,” meaning that 81% of tested products were hazardous. These include chemicals identified to be carcinogenic, capable of causing developmental disabilities in children, or were otherwise found at levels considered toxic. Unlike major chains like Wal-Mart and Target, no major dollar store chain has a formal policy on selling or disclosing toxic ingredients in products.

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EPA Can Map Environmental Justice Communities – Can They Stop The Poisoning?

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Today we know how to identify Environmental Justice communities but what is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) doing to relieve their community burdens? A new mapping tool created by the EPA, called EJSCREEN was recently released. This tool is great for academia or researchers but how does it help environmentally impacted communities? Why is generating information, that community already know because they are living with the pollution and associated diseases daily, more important than helping them?

CHEJ, for example, has worked for over thirty years with Save Our County in East Liverpool, Ohio This community in the 1990’s was defined by EPA as an Environmental Justice community, through their evaluation process which is the same as the mapping categories. Yet nothing has changed as a result of this definition.

  • The hazardous waste incinerator, WTI, still operates and remains for most of the time in violation of air and other standards.
  • Other industries continue to pollute with little enforcement.
  • An elementary school was closed due to the air emissions from the WTI Incinerator stack which is almost level to the school windows (incinerator is in the valley) stack peeked over the embankment. The City was force to shoulder the costs of relocating students and staff.
  • In the past several years new wells were drilled for natural gas extraction and infrastructure.
  • The community has the highest number of cancers in their county than other similar counties in the state.

    Nothing, absolutely nothing, has changed in East Liverpool, Ohio as a result of being de