Denka claims 86 percent chloroprene reduction

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, July 17, 2019

RESERVE — Chloroprene emissions recorded at Denka Performance Elastomer in 2019 are 86 percent lower than the 2014 emission levels at the site, according to company spokesperson Jim Harris.

Denka recently sent an emissions report to the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality in response to a May communication that requested the company demonstrate the reduction achieved by equipment installed in 2017.

LDEQ’s May 16 letter stated the emissions data previously submitted by Denka did not represent an 85 percent reduction in accordance to a 2017 Administrative Order on Consent. Therefore, further proof was required.

Harris said a start up period after more than $35 million in new equipment was installed accounted for a delay in chloroprene reduction. In the most recent report, 2019 and 2014 levels were adjusted to compare apples to apples.

“The emission reduction goal outlined (in the administrative order of consent) was not fully achieved until after a shakedown period in the first months of 2018, during which the new equipment was optimized,” Harris said, noting there was no set deadline to meet the 85 percent reduction goal.

Chloroprene levels have been a source of controversy in St. John the Baptist Parish since an Environmental Protection Agency national air toxics study released in 2015 classified the chemical as “a likely carcinogen.” While studies centered on rodents, results suggested chloroprene exposure could present a heightened cancer risk in humans.

Harris said Denka has worked “above and beyond” the order of consent to initiate a continuous improvement program in 2018. He said this program has allowed Denka to review emissions and reduce them where feasible.

“That program has prompted 47 improvements so far, including process, equipment, and work practice changes,” Harris said. “This is a core part of Denka’s environmental stewardship, which has been a priority since Denka assumed ownership of the LaPlace facility in late 2015.”

LDEQ is still in the process of reviewing the paperwork, according to communications director Gregory Langley.

“We have some questions about the methodology and how they actually figured out the 86 percent,” Langley said. “We’re looking for the number that we get from the same calculations, but we do feel like the number they achieved met the intent of the order.”

A previous report suggested Denka achieved a 71 percent reduction. According to Harris, the previous report did not accurately reflect the chloroprene levels emitted in 2014, before Denka owned the company.

Since some emissions sources could not be accounted for in the 2014 levels, Denka officials adjusted the measurements.

Langley said LDEQ would continue to work with Denka to lower levels.

“We want to continue to work with them and get more reductions in chloroprene emissions,” Langley said. “We’re not satisfied that we’ve gotten everything we can get. We want to work with them as we go along and try to get it as low as possible.”

Based in Reserve, the Concerned Citizens of St. John have fought for lower chloroprene levels since the 2015 EPA study became public.

Last month, Concerned Citizens leader Robert Taylor told L’OBSERVATEUR the reduction agreement between Denka and LDEQ did little to inspire hope.

“From the beginning, there never was a penalty placed on that administrative order of consent deal,” Taylor said. “There has never been anything in place to really enforce that. It gives the impression to the people here suffering from this that it was never a real effort.”

New Denka data notes approximately 99.9 percent of chloroprene made at the site is made into product or destroyed.