The Dec. 22 consent agreement filed by the U.S. EPA addresses and mandates remedies for Denka, though it remains unclear how the Jan. 11 lawsuit will affect the Jan. 31 start date for the mandates to take effect.
The EPA has classified chloroprene as a "likely carcinogen," a determination that was made in 2010.
Short-term chloroprene exposure can cause dizziness, increased heart rates, stomach disorders, hair loss and eye damage, according to the EPA.
Long-term exposure has been associated with increased risk of cancer and other health problems.
But Denka also has disputed that cancer cases have risen since the company took over from DuPont in 2015.
In fact, the two entities show the local cancer rates—as measured by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality and the Louisiana Tumor Registry—going in opposite directions.
Denka asserts that the LTR reports that "incidents of cancer are at or below statewide averages for cancers of potential concern."
This information is disputed by the EPA and the residents of St. John the Baptist Parish, who filed a civil rights complaint against the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality on April 6, alleging that the LDEQ "discriminates on the basis of race in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964."
About 60 percent of St. John residents are Black.
Regardless, the EPA does not appear to be moving off its measurements of chloroprene at the Denka plant in LaPlace.
"The EPA conducted on-site inspections of the facility in April and May 2022 and observed Denka's process of transferring 'poly kettle strainer waste' to an outside, open-air brine pit," the agency stated in a Dec. 28, 2022, press release accompanying the Dec. 22 consent agreement filing.
During this process, EPA inspectors say they documented elevated chloroprene concentrations in the air in the vicinity of the brine pit.
"Pursuant to the consent agreement, beginning Jan. 31, Denka will stop placing this waste stream in its open-air brine pit and instead meet hazardous waste regulatory requirements for both storage and ultimate disposal of the waste," the U.S. EPA states in the consent agreement.
Denka must consider EPA's "Environmental Justice Screening and Mapping Tool" when selecting disposal facilities and must consider using low-emission vehicles when transporting waste for disposal.
The company must further provide protective equipment to employees who handle "poly kettle strainer waste."
And terms of the consent agreement also require Denka to manage the waste as "hazardous" until a more robust sampling and hazardous waste determination effort can be completed by the company through a waste determination plan.
"By no later than Jan. 31, 2023, respondent must store the 'poly kettle strainer waste' when removed from the outside brine pit in containers that meet RCRA Subtitle C requirements," according to the consent agreement. "Such containers of (the waste products) must be placed in a spill berm or other secondary containment, and transported and disposed of in accordance with RCRA Subtitle C requirements.
"Denka will continue testing additional emissions reductions measures to reduce emissions from the management of this waste," the U.S. EPA states.
Remedies and modifications made by Denka will be subject to EPA review.
And the EPA reserves the right to assess a civil penalty of "not more than $25,000, and increased for inflation, per day of noncompliance for each violation."
One violation—"failure to make a hazardous waste determination"—is enumerated in the consent agreement.
"If successful, the emissions reduction projects alone have the potential to eliminate approximately two tons of chloroprene emissions per year from poly kettle strainer clean-out," according to Denka's Emissions Inventory, as reported to the U.S. EPA.