Denka officials clarify recent Council claims

Published 12:10 am Saturday, December 24, 2016

LAPLACE — The figure is more accurately stated at just more than $17 million.

Denka Performance Elastomer Plant Manager Jorge Lavastida clarified to L’OBSERVATEUR this week that the LaPlace manufacturer communicated to the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality and Environmental Protection Agency that it is spending $17.25 million in capital projects specifically for environmental emission reduction.

Lavastida’s clarification comes in response to a Dec. 13 St. John the Baptist Parish Council meeting attended by LDEQ Secretary Dr. Chuck Brown in which it was stated Denka Performance Elastomer was spending $50 million on an emissions reduction plan.

Denka Performance Elastomer, which in November 2015 announced its acquisition of DuPont Performance Polymers in LaPlace, produces synthetic rubber Neoprene.

The Denka plant produces chloroprene while making Neoprene, and chloroprene is considered a potential cancer-causing agent.

According to Lavastida, Denka Performance Elastomer’s costs will exceed the initial $17.25 million capital investment through “substantial” annual operating costs.

Denka recently announced a series of measures to reduce chloroprene emissions by 85 percent — an effort endorsed by state and national environmental agencies.

At the Dec. 13 Parish Council meeting, Councilman Lennix Madere Jr. said company officials told him a 10 percent production decrease was possible.

Lavastida said production cuts were discussed, but said company leaders told Parish representatives such a move would be challenging and did not commit to any possibilities.

“Our focus is on implementing the emissions reduction projects, with a very aggressive schedule; continuing to work collaboratively with the regulatory agencies; and continuing to dialogue with our stakeholders,” Lavastida said.

In response to numerous news reports indicating Denka’s LaPlace location is the only company in the country producing Neoprene, Lavastida said it is important to note there are several facilities in Europe, Asia and across the world manufacturing chloroprene rubber and competing with Denka Performance Elastomer in the global marketplace.

According to Denka Performance Elastomer officials, public records on plant emissions show in the last several years, including DuPont’s ownership prior to Nov. 1, 2015, the Neoprene process emissions are approximately 120 tons of chloroprene annually.

“To further provide perspective on this number, this is less than .5 percent of the plant’s annual Neoprene production,” Lavastida said. “More than 99.5 percent of the chloroprene processed at the site is converted to saleable product.”