CHARLES, LA - The chemical giant PPG was squarely in the sights of the international
environmental organization Greenpeace today when it unfurled a 100-foot long floating
banner in a dioxin polluted bayou, with the words "Dioxin starts here" and pointed
it at the facility.
Today's action by Greenpeace
brings its week-and-a-half long "Toxic-Free Future" bus patrol tour through Louisiana
full circle by identifying the source of much of the state's dioxin contamination
– vinyl plants, many of which are in the Lake Charles region. The toxic emissions
from these facilities have earned Lake Charles a place on Greenpeace's list of
global dioxin hot spots, some of the most dioxin-contaminated sites in the world.
Greenpeace's "Toxics Patrol"
bus tour through Louisiana has highlighted the high concentration of vinyl production
and other polluting facilities in the state. These facilities emit toxins that
not only contaminate local communities but also travel long distances on air currents
to poison other parts of the world.
"This is one of the most
polluted places on earth due to the high levels of dioxin, one of the most toxic
substances ever produced by industry," said Damu Smith, Greenpeace toxics campaigner
and coordinator of the tour. "We demand an immediate halt to the permitting of
any new dioxin factories or expansion of existing ones, substantial reductions
in plant emissions, and a plan to phase out dirty industries in favor of cleaner
production practices. These steps are necessary to address the acute local health
crisis and the global pollution crisis caused by these industries."
According to a recently
released report by Greenpeace, Lake Charles: Global Dioxin Hot Spot, "A recent
comprehensive investigation of the Calcasieu Estuary ecosystem by the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found the highest levels of toxic
contamination in areas near PPG, [Condea] Vista and.Conoco" – all of which are
on the shores of the bayou where the banner was unfurled today.
According to company documents,
between 1962 and 1976, PPG dumped at least 120,000 tons of dioxin-contaminated
wastes either directly into the bayou or into nearby unlined ponds. Due to the
spread of the contamination, the bayou and the Calcasieu Estuary has the potential
of being one of the largest Superfund sites in the country."
While the dumping of dioxin-saturated
wastes into the estuary may have stopped, the vinyl plants continue to dump it
into the air via their on-site waste incinerators. Fish and other wildlife nearest
PPG in the bayou contained the highest levels of toxic contamination found by
NOAA in its study, according to the report. Dioxin levels in two eggs from chickens
raised in Mossville, a neighborhood adjacent to Condea/Vista and Conoco, were
found to be twice the level of a control egg purchased elsewhere.
"Louisiana ranks number
one in the nation in per-capita toxic releases to the environment," said Damu
Smith, Greenpeace toxics campaigner, "and her citizens are bearing a terrible
health burden for it. The floating banner points the responsibility for this pollution-and
the attention-right where it belongs, on one of the worst offenders in the nation,
PPG. Its dioxin-ladened emissions have the potential to cause cancer, effect reproductive
and immune systems, and cause other health problems."
Residents of one community
surrounding the vinyl plants in Lake Charles were recently tested by the US Agency
for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry for dioxin in their blood. The report
concluded that" blood dioxin levels in residents in Mossville are elevated compared
to other populations, and that the elevated levels are not due to age alone,"
and "it would be prudent public health policy to identify sources of dioxin exposure
in Mossville residents and to implement actions to minimize further exposures."
The banner placement comes
just one day after Greenpeace posted permanent signs in the bayous of the Calcasieu
Estuary warning residents not to fish or swim in the highly contaminated waters.
The brightly colored, 6 foot by 4 foot signs-which read "WARNING! Louisiana, Global
Toxic Hot Spot" and urge concerned citizens to call Governor Foster at the governor's
mansion-were installed in an area where a sediment sample tested nearly 1,000
times above the average reading for dioxin in North American sediments.