Durbin, Duckworth Urge EPA To Hold Watco Transloading Accountable For Dangerous Manganese Emission
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) today urged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to hold Watco Transloading on Chicago’s Southeast Side accountable for violating federal safety standards due to its high levels of manganese emissions – a known neurotoxin. The Senators, in a letter to the EPA, raised concerns about the EPA’s failure to promptly hold companies accountable for violations of the Clean Air Act, and highlighted the EPA’s ability to force facilities to monitor and test their air emissions for manganese air pollution.
“It is unacceptable for our constituents to be exposed to this pollution that may threaten the health of the Southeast Chicago community. We demand that those responsible be held accountable for meeting the federal air pollution standards as quickly as possible, to mitigate any further harm to the community,” the Senators wrote.
In December, a Chicago Tribune report found that air monitors recorded dangerous levels of brain-damaging manganese at Watco Transloading on Chicago’s Southeast Side. In May, Durbin, Duckworth, and U.S. Representative Robin Kelly (D-IL-02) wrote to then-EPA Administrator Pruitt about the agency’s failure to consistently hold facilities accountable for dangerous emissions of manganese.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, high levels of manganese dust exposure can cause serious neurological effects, learning difficulties, and memory loss. Recent studies have shown a link between manganese exposure and lower child IQ scores. Researchers at University of Illinois at Chicago’s School of Public Health found that children in Southeast Chicago have higher levels of manganese in their toenails than children in other parts of the City.
Full text of the letter is available here and below:
January 30, 2019
Dear Administrator Stepp:
We write to urge the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to work closely with Watco Transloading—a company that recently received a notice of violation due to its high levels of manganese emission—to quickly come into compliance with the federal safety standards for this known neurotoxin. We also request that the EPA conduct both air and soil sampling for manganese contamination in residential communities downwind of Watco to ensure the area is not contaminated.
In May, we wrote a letter to the EPA requesting it use its authority under the Clean Air Act to require industrial facilities to install filter-based monitors that measure possible manganese emissions in Southeast Chicago. Since then, new monitors have detected dangerously high levels of manganese in September and October, with the federal response to these violations eventually issued on December 18. The community was not immediately informed about the high concentrations of manganese measured near the facility, leaving residents in the dark about the manganese concentrations in the air that they breathe. Manganese emissions pose a serious threat to our constituents, as exposure can lead to neurological effects, learning difficulties, memory loss, and lower child IQ scores.
In addition to air pollution, the risk of soil contamination from manganese-emitting facilities is also of deep concern. Recent testing has shown that manganese levels in soil near the S.H. Bell facility have exceeded the Illinois standard for the required cleanup of former residential and industrial sites. Due to the risk of soil contamination from manganese emissions at Watco, areas downwind of the facility should be also be monitored for soil contamination.
It is unacceptable for our constituents to be exposed to this pollution that may threaten the health of the Southeast Chicago community. We demand that those responsible be held accountable for meeting the federal air pollution standards as quickly as possible, to mitigate any further harm to the community.
We look forward to your response on this matter.
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