Chemicals giant DuPont decided to sell a plant in south Louisiana that emits a likely cancer causing pollutant, citing “major concerns” that government agencies would regulate its emissions to protect the community living nearby. The multibillion-dollar company worried in 2011 about the potential cost of offsetting its emissions of the “likely human carcinogen”, chloroprene, and so moved to sell the plant, the Pontchartrain Works facility. The company also withheld details of its own research to offset emissions from the plant’s new owners, the Japanese chemical company Denka.
According to the EPA, the majority Black community have the highest risk of cancer due to airborne pollution anywhere in the US, over 50 times the national average, primarily due to chloroprene emissions.
“They prioritize profits over people. They come to your neighborhoods and give you as little information as possible,” said Lydia Gerard, another resident who lost her husband to cancer in 2018. “To me this shows that DuPont thought, ‘Let’s see how long we can get away with it in this community before anyone finds out and says anything about it.”
“They [DuPont] should have told us. They have a good-neighbour policy but they were not trying to change anything. They were going to go for another 50 years if this [potential government regulation] hadn’t come to light,” said Mary Hampton, a resident who lives a few hundred feet from the plant.
DuPont argue it cannot be held liable as it no longer owns the plant, despite opening the facility and polluting the air with chloroprene for nearly half a century.
“It was a money decision to continue contaminating a community, when in fact the technology was there to implement the controls to operate the facility safely. And they [DuPont] chose not to do it because of the price tag,” said Hugh Lambert, a lawyer working for the plaintiffs.