A plastics factory in Delaware is among the worst polluters targeted Wednesday in a nationwide lawsuit filed by environmental groups seeking to force tougher federal controls on toxic vinyl chloride emissions.
The environmental groups asked an appeals court to set deadlines for an Environmental Protection Agency rewrite of emission standards for cancer-causing polyvinyl chloride.
Members of Earthjustice, Sierra Club and other organizations cited the agency's failure to answer repeated calls to update pollution limits originally set in 1976 for factories like Formosa Plastics near Delaware City.
"Given their track record of incompetence and delay from the get-go, we're not sure we can trust them to get the job done," said Katie Renshaw, an attorney with Earthjustice. "That is why we're here today, to limit once and for all the dangerous chemicals from PVC plants raining down on communities around the country."
Louisiana and Texas have more PVC factories, but Formosa in Delaware has long ranked among the nation's top individual sources of carcinogenic vinyl chloride releases into the air.
Accidental and routine emissions from the Delaware plant were so high during the late 1980s that state regulators took the highly unusual step of briefly shutting down the operation.
Mabel B. Roberts-Cole, who lives near Middletown but commutes daily through Delaware City, saidDelaware and the EPA still need to do more.
"Somebody has to be accountable," Roberts-Cole said. "The federal government has used communities as toxic dumping grounds, but not communities where decision-makers live."
Roberts-Cole said she worries residents may be unaware of the factory emissions in newly built developments and school classrooms near Formosa and the nearby Delaware City Refinery.
"A lot of people aren't aware of what's surrounding them, of what's coming out of those places," Roberts-Cole said. "Where do they think this stuff is going?"
Formosa officials could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.