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Is A SoyChlor Plant Killing Animals, People, And Children In Jefferson Iowa?
On October 28, 2005, more than 250 residents of Jefferson, Iowa, represented by the attorneys at LaMarca & Landry, PC, filed a lawsuit against West Central Cooperative in the Iowa District Court for Greene County. The parties in this case include homeowners, business owners and people who work at nearby workplaces, such as MicroSoy, Electrolux and American Concrete.
Causes of action include nuisance, negligence, trespass, res ipsa loquitur, and strict liability for the commission of an unusually dangerous act. The claims stem from several environmental and health changes that have taken place since West Central Cooperative’s Jefferson, Iowa Soy Chlor plant began operations on February 14, 2005. contain one or both of these chemicals. Soy Chlor is a patented dairy cattle feed additive that combines hydrochloric acid with soy product.
The lawsuit also alleges violations of the West Central Cooperative’s IDNR operating permit for the plant, as well as violations of the Hazardous Chemical Hazards Act and other applicable environmental laws and standards of care.
West Central opened the business – SoyChlor – in February. Since then, emissions from the plant have damaged metal buildings and other property within a mile of the plant, the lawsuit alleges. Prosecutors allege that the sprays killed grass and other plants, killed wildlife, destroyed windows and stained surrounding structures and roadway stones.
The plaintiffs allege the plant exceeded legal limits for emissions of both hydrogen chloride and “particulate matter,” or dust. When combined with moisture, the chemical turns into hydrochloric acid, a highly toxic substance known to be toxic to humans and animals.
“It’s plain as day, right out my front window,” said Jeb Ball, owner of a used car business just west of the SoyChlor plant on Jefferson’s north side. “I have to look at it every day.”
“We think we’re in line now,” said Neil Ramsbottom, vice president of soy and food operations at Ralston-based West Central, but he added that the company plans to increase the height of SoyChlor’s emission tower to 94 feet. spread the leaflets and reduce their presence on the ground. West Central also plans to install an additional cleaning system, Ramsbottom said, adding that those combined steps will be more than enough to ensure the plant’s emissions meet legal limits.
The company asked the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, which oversees emissions from manufacturing plants, to allow the changes.
Dave Phelps, who oversees the DNR division that oversees such permits, said the department was prepared to grant the company’s request, but he also expects a public comment period and a public hearing on the matter later this month. have a topic. He also said recent tests showed the plant’s dust emissions exceeded the limit allowed by state law.
George LaMarca, a Des Moines attorney representing the plaintiffs in the case, said the public hearing and an opportunity for public input are good steps, but ones that should have been taken before the plant opened.
Ball, the owner of a used car business, said Monday that his son, Colton Conroy, 15, was sickened by SoyChlor exposure. A month ago, a high school sophomore collapsed at a football game, and a treating physician blamed SoyChlor emissions for the health problems that first emerged after the plant opened.
Since his collapse, the young man has been living with his grandparents, south of the city, and his symptoms have subsided, said Ball and his wife, Diane Conroy.
“He could run and play football and everything a year ago, and he had no problem,” Ball said.
SoyChlor uses hazardous substances, including hydrogen chloride, to make a patented product that is added to dairy cattle. Hydrogen chloride is a poisonous gas that is poisonous to humans and animals.
When it mixes with moisture, it turns into hydrochloric acid, a highly toxic substance that can eat away at the end of a motor vehicle, puncture glass, and kill wildlife and plants — all of which, residents say, in the “collapse zone.” , a region. extending a mile or more in each direction from the plant. The gas, acid, and particulates degraded by the gas or acid are discharged into a column that sits atop a concrete tower at the north end of the plant.
“In Iowa, when you live in a community this size, you take it for granted because it’s agricultural,” said Jeff Ostendorf, a Jefferson livestock producer who works for MicroSoy Corp., a soy-based food additive manufacturer based in across the street from SoyChlor, works. “This is different.”
Bonnie Burkhardt lives just south of SoyChlor, across the street. One day last week, she paged through a notebook and three-ring binder in which she meticulously tracked communications about the dispute with public officials, company officials and others in the community.
One notebook details the potentially harmful effects of the toxic substances used by SoyChlor, along with reports from medical doctors treating Burkhardt and others who say they have suffered health setbacks this year.
The family says that the children, who used to be lively, are now very sleepy and lose energy quickly. Colton Conroy, 15, who’s just over 6 feet tall, is easily fit and starting to gain weight, his mother said. Adults with respiratory illnesses, including Norma Gross and Ron Lawton, said they got better with medical treatments, but now say they’ve gotten worse.
For the past year, despite her chronic lung disease, Gross has been doing well. But after SoyChlor was exposed, she quickly lost ground, struggling to breathe. Her doctors at University Hospitals in Iowa City, where she was participating in a research project, urged her to stay away, she said. But she is a lifelong resident, and she and her husband have raised 10 children here. Gross wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.
Also of concern to Gross and Burkhardt is the loss of wildlife. The pigeons that used to roost on the tall grain storage structures north of the SoyChlor plant are gone. Gone are the bluebirds, cardinals, goldfinches and other birds that once roamed the many slopes in Gross’s yard. Haven’t seen a bird in weeks.
“All of a sudden there were no more birds, no birds,” said Gross, who lives in a regular trailer park within a mile of the plant.
In addition, marks have appeared on the ends of vehicles and on the sides of houses and other buildings, even on mailboxes.
Jefferson residents said West Central Insurance has hired a Florida firm to clean up vehicles affected by the spill. They also said the insurer offered checks of up to several hundred dollars to residents claiming property damage, although recipients were required to sign a form exempting the co-op and its affiliates from further lawsuits.
Burkhardt said she first realized something was wrong when her skin started to burn while she was working in the flower garden. Finally, she drove indoors, where she would take a shower to stop the burning. That was last spring, after she spent a few months in Florida with her husband, Chuck.
Also, Arletta Tasler and her husband returned from a winter in Texas. They both developed coughs that lasted for months, they said. Sometimes, Tasler said, she would cough so hard she would vomit.
Like Burkhardt, Tasleran didn’t know about the cause.
Burkhardt and her friend Diane Conroy spoke with neighbors and people who work at nearby businesses. Within a mile of Burkhardt’s home, they found dozens of people reporting similar symptoms. They first noticed a strange odor, like the smell of a bag of empty beer cans left out in the hot sun for a day, Conroy said.
Then there were health problems. Then spots on vehicles and on buildings. Then there was the film on the windows and windshields that couldn’t be removed by washing. And some felt that their eyes were cut off.
The women searched the internet for information about SoyChlor and the chemicals used.
The more they learned, the more convinced they were that SoyChlor was the culprit.
“If you take this on your shoulder, if it’s perforated, think about what it does to the plant,” said Tasler, who with her husband of 49 years, Shorty, farms a farm directly east of the plant. your beard.”
Burkhardt, Conroy and others contacted the city’s sanitation chief, the public health nurse and the editor of the local newspaper. They began contacting the government — environmental and safety administrators, Iowa’s U.S. senators, even the White House.
Conroy and her husband, Jeb Ball, contacted their attorney in Des Moines. He sent them to George LaMarca, another Des Moines attorney. LaMarca knew how deadly hydrogen chloride can be. The gas suffocated some of the victims of Des Moines’ deadliest fire on Nov. 5, 1978, which engulfed the Younkers department store in the Merle Hay Mall. an unexpected settlement for the plaintiffs.
There are only five words for cooperation: “We want the plant closed.”
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