The Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers International Union (PACE) has served Continental Carbon Co. and its Taiwan-based parent companies, China Synthetic Rubber Co. and Taiwan Cement Corp., with a "Notice of Intent to Sue" for alleged violations of state and federal environmental laws in Sunray, Tex., and Ponca City, Okla.
The union claims that Continental Carbon''s violations of environmental laws at its Oklahoma and Texas plants pose an imminent and substantial endangerment to public health, employees, firefighters and the environment.
According to Rick Lowerre, the attorney representing PACE in this action, the laws allegedly violated by the company include the Federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA); Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA); and the emergency planning and community Right-to-Know Act.
In addition to having serious public health concerns, PACE believes that worker health and safety may be compromised by the alleged violations.
"Our members will not be used as canaries in the mines," said Joe Drexler, PACE director of special projects. "If the company, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or state agencies do not take major remedial action within the next sixty days, the union intends to file a lawsuit."
Possible violations listed in the notices include: the failure to obtain a hazardous waste permit; acceptance of hazardous wastes without authorizations; failure to make hazardous waste determinations; failure to dispose of
hazardous waste properly; failure to investigate releases of hazardous wastes; failure to maintain required records; failure to follow shipping requirements; and failure to report on all toxic releases.
One major potential violation cited by PACE is Continental Carbon''s failure to treat carbon black oil as a hazardous waste. Carbon black oil is the tarry sludge-like residue left over from the oil refining process. This heavily contaminated waste is used to make carbon black, an ingredient in tires and other plastic products. The carbon black oil, to which workers have been exposed, can contain chemicals that cause cancer and other health problems.
PACE also filed the notices with the U.S. Department of Justice, EPA, the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission, and the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality.
According to Lowerre, a 60-day notice is required prior to the filing of a federal lawsuit that seeks civil penalties for violations, injunctive relief to stop future violations, and recovery of expert and attorney fees.
Texans United Education Fund, an environmental organization with members who work at or live near the Sunray, Texas, plant, also is serving Continental Carbon with a "Notice of Intent to Sue."
Back in January, PACE representatives and the Ponca Tribe Environmental Agency discovered that chemical barrels and other industrial waste was illegally dumped in the woods behind the Continental Carbon plant in Ponca City, Okla. The dump site is on property adjacent to Continental Carbon in the flood plain next to the Arkansas River.
The groups requested that the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality and EPA have the site cleaned up and tested to determine the nature and extent of any toxic contamination. The contents of the barrels appear to have spilled onto the soil and water, which drains downhill towards the river. The area is not fenced, and is frequently visited by children from nearby homes.
For further information on Continental Carbon''s environmental problems, see www.fightbackonline.org.
by Sandy Smith ([email protected])