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Louisville Factory Fined For Polluting Air In Park Hill Neighborhood

Clariant's polypropylene catalyst production facility in Louisville.
Clariant's polypropylene catalyst production facility in Louisville.

A Louisville factory that manufactures plastic resins released harmful pollutants into the Park Hill neighborhood twice this year, according to a violation notice from the city’s air quality regulators.

The Air Pollution Control District issued Clariant Corporation a $7,500 fine for the pollution and for filing errors in reporting to regulators.

Back in June, Clariant released excess nitrogen oxide emissions for about 40 minutes. Then in October, the company reported visible black smoke coming from a flare for about 40 minutes. The smoke also violated standards for nitrogen oxides, as well as opacity.

In both cases, Clariant reported to APCD that it has taken measures to correct the problems causing the excess emissions.

“Oxides of nitrogen are a major pollutant,” said Tom Nord, APCD spokesman. “It’s a byproduct of combustion so it comes out of factories, it comes out of cars even.”

The Environmental Protection Agency says nitrogen oxides are a family of poisonous, highly reactive gases that form when fuel is burned at high temperatures. The pollutants also play a major role in the production of smog on hot summer days.

Clariant previously paid a fine of more than $14,000 after releasing nitrogen oxides into the air six times in 2015. In one case in July, the emissions caused the company to evacuate the facility and call for a hazardous materials response.

Clariant did not return a message for comment for this story.

An advocate for environmental health in West Jefferson County said she’s concerned with the releases and would like reassurance the company has taken steps to address the source of the pollution.

“But I’d like to hear with some confidence that whatever they have done, they have remedied it and this will not likely happen again,” said Arnita Gadson, West Jefferson County Community Task Force Director.

The Air Pollution Control District said it also found errors in the company's paperwork.

A 2016 report from Clariant says the company released excess levels of hexavalent chromium and nickel. However, APCD said that upon further investigation, regulators discovered “several inconsistencies” in the company’s reporting.

Nord said the initial report was a false alarm. He said regulators chose to fine Clariant for the errors because it’s important that companies accurately report all emissions.

“It’s a good thing that it wasn’t more chemical than they were supposed to emit, but it’s a bad thing in that this is a trust situation. These companies are entrusted to report this data,” Nord said.

The factory in Park Hill is Clariant’s largest U.S. hub for the production of polypropylene catalysts, which are used in a wide variety of plastic products, including chairs, pipes, ropes, roofing and medical devices.

A public hearing to discuss the violation and the agreement between APCD and Clariant is scheduled for Wednesday at 10 a.m. at 701 W. Ormsby Ave., Louisville.

Ryan Van Velzer is the Kentucky Public Radio Managing Editor. Email Ryan at rvanvelzer@lpm.org.

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