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St. John School Board members question ‘dangerous’ Denka emissions, parent forum planned

LAPLACE — The St. John the Baptist Parish Public School District is joining forces with the Concerned Citizens of St. John the Baptist Parish to call for action on emissions being emitted by Denka Performance Elastomer.

The school district will host a public forum on the topic at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Lake Pontchartrain Elementary School for parents and the community to receive information about the emissions.

“I believe it is important for the school district to make sure that we are providing a quality education, as well as a safe learning environment,” School Board President Ali Burl III said. “If a child is subjected to an area of high emissions for over 24 hours a day, that is dangerous.”

Burl, School Board Vice President Patrick Sanders and Superintendent Kevin George recently met with attorneys for the plaintiffs in a lawsuit seeking to have the plant stop or reduce production until emissions no longer exceed the EPA’s risk-based standard of 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter.

“After a lengthy two-hour detailed discussion and presentation of information from agency heads referencing the emission of chloroprene gas as truly a likely carcinogen, it’s incumbent on myself and the school district to get involved in safeguarding the children we service,” Sanders said.

“According to the information provided to the board, two of our schools show high readings of the chloroprene-emitted gas on days air quality samples were collected.”

Of six monitoring sites throughout the parish that monitor chloroprene levels, two are at public schools — one at Fifth Ward Elementary and one at East St. John High School. Past readings have shown chloroprene readings that far exceeded the 0.2 level at both sites.

“We have worked with and through the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality and the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals to address this grave concern and we have not received any news that reassures the safety of our students and residents,” George said. “It is time to join forces as a community to demand action now.”

— Submitted by Jennifer Boquet, communications specialist for St. John the Baptist Parish Public Schools