Pascagoula to review plans by plant to process chemicals

Published 11:55 pm Saturday, August 12, 2006

City officials plan a public hearing next week to review a planned First Chemical Corp. project that would truck telomer alcohol to its plant here for processing.

The hearing is planned at 6 p.m. Monday at City Hall.

First Chemical, a subsidiary of DuPont, plans to receive about a truckload a day of telomer alcohol from a DuPont plant in New Jersey.

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At its plant in Pascagoula, perflourooctanoic acid, an unwanted byproduct in the process of making stain-resistant clothing and furniture, will chemically be eliminated and the telomer alcohol will be trucked back to New Jersey, officials said.

Because perflourooctanoic acid, also called PFOA or C-8, doesn’t disperse readily, “DuPont has committed to the U.S. EPA to virtually eliminate the sources of exposure to PFOA from our manufacturing operations and products by 2015,” said Nate Pepper, with DuPont’s public affairs division for the Gulf Coast region. “This project at Pascagoula is an important part of meeting that commitment.”

James Freeman, plant manager of First Chemical, said it was normal practice to send material from one DuPont plant to another for processing.

He said new technology will chemically destroy all but a small amount of the PFOA. Over the course of a year, emissions will be about a tenth of a pound of PFOA in the air and two pounds or less discharged into the city water system.

Becky Gillette, co-chairman of the South Mississippi Sierra Club, said she’s worried about the PFOA emissions.

Although the Environmental Protection Agency said in January there are no known human health risks from PFOA, Gillette counters that those who have worked with PFOA and lived near DuPont plants where it is manufactured have experienced health problems, including cancer. She wants the Pascagoula City Council to reject First Chemical’s plan.

An open permit board hearing to review First Chemical’s PFOA project was held by the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality on June 6.

“No, it isn’t a normal procedure,” said Jerry Cain, director of the MDEQ’s Office of Pollution Control.

Local interest and opposition to the project triggered the upcoming public hearing.

First Chemical welcomes the public meeting with the Pascagoula City Council, Freeman said.

“There are a lot of misconceptions and misinformation about the project,” he said.

Gillette said Sierra Club members will attend the session to voice opposition.