United Steelworkers (USW) said today that it has taken the first step toward filing a lawsuit against OMNOVA Solutions, Inc. by providing notice of intent to file in United States Federal District Court. Parties joining in the USW suit are The Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ), and the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL).
The suit would fall under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act of 1986 for what appears to be insufficient reporting of the storage and release of toxic chemicals to the environment from the company’s Performance Chemicals Facility in Chester, S.C. Product focus at this facility consists of chemicals for floor care, graphic arts, coatings, adhesives, tape, construction, paper and textiles.
In a letter sent today by USW, CHEJ and BREDL to fulfill the 60-day notice requirement to perfect jurisdiction to bring the citizen suit, the groups allege that the company failed to accurately complete and submit required Toxic Chemical Release Forms for 2008 and 2009 to report releases of Potassium Permanganate and Toluene Diisocyanate. The groups also allege that the company failed to report their 2008 releases of Isopropyl Alcohol. Under the law, OMNOVA could be subject to civil penalties up to $32,500 per violation, per day with liabilities that ultimately could reach millions of dollars.
“We have found that employers who disrespect workers often treat the environment with the same contempt,” said USW Special Counsel Lynn Agee. “Until OMNOVA starts obeying our laws and respecting workers, we’ll continue in our efforts to bring the company to justice.”
“The League’s members in the Carolinas are united in support of this action,” stated Louis Zeller, Legal Director, Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League. “We cannot allow companies to ignore toxic chemical reporting; it’s our right to know.”
While all three chemicals can irritate the nose and throat, health warnings advise that Toluene Diisocyanate may cause cancer, lung irritation and an asthma-like allergy. Potassium Permanganate may decrease fertility and affect the liver and kidneys.
The Chester facility is one of six OMNOVA plants that stores large volumes of extremely hazardous chemicals in quantities that EPA deems a potential public risk and subject to Risk Management Planning.
“Community members and workers have the need as well as the right to know about hazardous chemicals used and released by OMNOVA,” said Lois Marie Gibbs, Executive Director of the Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ). “Corporations like OMNOVA need to come clean and fully inform the public and workers about toxic chemicals stored at their facilities and released into communities.”