MATTHEW DALY – Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP), The Environmental Protection Agency has taken a series of enforcement measures to address air pollution and unsafe drinking water in three Gulf Coast states. This is following a Journey to Justice tour that Administrator Michael Regan led last fall.
Regan stated that the agency will conduct unannounced inspections at chemical plants, refineries, and other industrial sites that are suspected of polluting water and causing health problems for nearby residents. To improve enforcement at Louisiana’s plastics and chemical plants, the agency will install air monitoring equipment. This region is home to many cancer hotspots that are well above the national average.
The EPA also sent a notice to Jackson, Mississippi, stating that its aging and overloaded drinking water system is in violation of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. The order directs the city’s to develop a plan to address the significant deficiencies identified by the EPA within 45 days.
Separately, Regan asked city and state officials to use nearly $79million in funding that Mississippi received under the bipartisan infrastructure bill “to solve some the most urgent water needs in Jackson” and other areas in need throughout Mississippi.
These actions were just a few of the many that were taken as a result of Regan’s November tour. Regan visited low-income communities, mostly minorities, in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas as part a federal effort to draw attention to communities that have been adversely affected by decades worth of industrial pollution.
The EPA prepared a Toxics release inventory that showed that 56% of those who live near toxic sites, such as chemical plants, landfills, refineries and landfills are from minority groups. Chronic health problems like hypertension, diabetes, asthma and diabetes are all possible negative effects.
Regan released a statement saying that in every community I visited during the Journey to Justice Tour, the message was clear. Residents have suffered for far too long. Our actions will not only help the communities I visited on the Journey to Justice tour but also those across the country who have suffered environmental injustices.
Regan stated Tuesday that unannounced inspections at chemical plants and other sites will keep these facilities on their toes.
Regan stated that inspections are currently done according to a schedule or with advance warning. But, this is about to change. He said that we are increasing our aggressiveness to use a tool in our toolbox that has been there for quite a while.
He added that EPA will use all its tools to hold facilities accountable if they are found not to be complying with the law.
Three parishes in Louisiana will be the first to begin a pilot project that combines high-tech monitoring of air pollution with additional inspectors. These parishes, which are home to numerous industrial sites, have long been plagued with water and air pollution.
Regan, a former North Carolina environmental regulator, has made environmental justice a top priority ever since he assumed the helm of the EPA. In November, he said that the issue was both personal and professional for him as the first Black head of the agency.
Many of these people look exactly like me when I look at them. Regan said that they look exactly like my son and it is really hard to see them questioning the quality of their drinking waters.
Regan stated that the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill signed by President Joe Biden will be of benefit to historically marginalized communities such as St. John and St. James and cities like New Orleans, Jackson and Mississippi. The law includes $55 million for water and wastewater infrastructure. However, a Senate climate and policy bill that is pending would pump more than twice the amount into EPA programs to clean the environment and address issues related to water and environmental justice.
Regan stated that the EPA has ordered a former DuPont petrochemical facility in La Place, Louisiana to install fence-line monitors in order to detect emissions from the site as part of its enforcement action. Denka, a Japanese conglomerate, now owns the plant.
The agency stated that it will be pushing for more scrutiny of the proposed expansion of a Formosa Plastics facility in St. James. It also issued a violation notice to a Nucor Steel plant that emits hydrogen sulfuride and other harmful chemicals.
Regan stated that he spoke with LaToya Cantrell, the New Orleans Mayor, about Gordon Plaza. It is a neighborhood built on the former site of a toxic landfill. Gordon Plaza was designated a Superfund site in 1990, but many families residing there are mainly Black.
Regan said that the EPA will start reviewing the site in March. They will then add nine homes that were not included in previous plans to help families move. Officials from the city hope to use money derived from the infrastructure law for relocation of families and construction of a solar farm.
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