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Louisville DuPont plant leaked volatile organic compounds this summer

The downtown Louisville skyline.
Ryan Van Velzer
The downtown Louisville skyline.

The company DuPont Specialty Products has agreed to pay a $7,500 fine for leaking nearly 60,000 pounds of chemicals in the Rubbertown area of west Louisville.

DuPont workers discovered valves leaking hydrogen fluoride and vinyl fluoride back in June, nearly a month after it began, according to the Louisville Air Pollution Control District’s agreed board order.

APCD spokesperson Matthew Mudd said the excess emissions violated the company’s permit for volatile organic compounds, which contribute ground level ozone and can negatively impact the city’s air quality.

“We’re primarily concentrated on this as a release of a [volatile organic compound] as a precursor to ozone formation. We monitor for ozone throughout the city as part of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, so it’s something we take seriously,” Mudd said.

DuPont released more than 57,000 pounds of vinyl fluoride and nearly 250 pounds of hydrogen fluoride, the latter of which is considered to be a toxic air contaminant under APCD regulations. However, Mudd said the amounts released would present minimal, if any, human health risk for the area.

The violation is a $10,000 fine, but APCD offered a discount for cooperating with the enforcement process. Mudd said DuPont has taken corrective actions and has plans to prevent future malfunctions.

A spokesperson for DuPont said the company has signed the order and “is pleased to resolve this matter.”

The order includes language that DuPont’s decision to pay the fine is not an admission of wrongdoing.

Eboni Cochran, co-director of Rubbertown Emergency ACTion, said in a Facebook comment that she doesn’t believe the fine will change the company’s behavior.

“$7,500???!!! That small amount, in no way, will change company behavior,” she wrote.

The APCD Board is set to meet next Wednesday to vote on the order. Residents can comment online on APCD’s website or at the hearing next Wednesday at 10 a.m. at APCD headquarters at 701 W. Ormsby Ave.

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

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