, 2000

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JUNE 30, 1999  11:08 AM
Greenpeace USA
Craig Culp, Media Coordinator at (202) 256-4042
Greenpeace Points to Dioxin Contamination From Vinyl Industry in Louisiana; 100 Foot Floating Banner Unfurled in Polluted Bayou
LAKE 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.



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