The town of Plaquemine on the banks of the Mississippi, just south of Baton Rouge is dominated by a web of chemical tanks and pipes courtesy of Dow.
In March 2001, residents of Myrtle Grove trailer park in Plaquemine, LA received notice that their drinking water was contaminated with vinyl chloride. The pollution occurred sometime between 1994 and September 1997. Tests in 1997 showed that vinyl chloride, a chemical used to make PVC, exceeded safe drinking water standards by two to three times. In 1998 tests showed levels six to seven times higher than the standard for human use and consumption. In both instances, no one was notified. Finally, a test conducted in March of 2001 showed contaminating levels of vinyl chloride in nine out of twelve wells.
Only then did the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DDH) notify Myrtle Grove residents and facilitate their switch to Plaquemine city water. Prior to March 2001, as many as 2,000 residents and visitors drank, cooked with and bathed in the contaminated water. Questions remain as to whether or not the DDH or Dow withheld information about the water contamination from residents or regulatory officials. In June of 2002 a former Dow supervisor, Glynn Smith, told a local Plaquemine television station that he had supervised employees to clean railroad tank cars which resulted in the dumping of thousands of gallons of vinyl chloride mixed with water onto the ground at the Dow plant.
Vinyl chloride has been associated with increased risk of cancer of liver, brain, lung and digestive tract. Currently, the 2,000 Myrtle Grove residents and visitors who drank water contaminated with vinyl chloride have signed on to a class-action lawsuit filed in 18th Judicial District Court in Louisiana.
For more information:
- Louisiana Environmental Action Network