Over the past year, the WV Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) has held a series of public events around its fenceline monitoring project and announced last week that it had signed a collaborative agreement with Union Carbide Corporation’s Institute facility to reduce ethylene oxide (EtO) emissions.
It also announced it has published its final report on its monitoring project. To learn more, please attend this week’s in-person public meeting on Thursday, March 2, from 6-8 pm at the Wilson Union Hall on the campus of WV State University in Institute – 301 Washington Ave., Dunbar, WV 25064. More information on the agreement and report can be found on WVDEP’s EtO webpage.
Groups including the WVEC, Moms Clean Air Force, Our Future WV, People Concerned About Chemical Safety, and other organizations and activists have been attending these events. We encourage you to come to Thursday’s meeting to learn more about the emissions of EtO, a carcinogen, into the air in the Kanawha Valley.
Background information from WV DEP on Ethylene Oxide:
The (EPA) conducted a study of air toxic emissions across the United States using data from 2014. That data was compiled and released by the EPA in 2018 in a report called the National Air Toxics Assessment (NATA). The NATA was a broad overview of air emissions across the country – commonly referred to as a screening tool – and is designed to identify areas that may need further investigation.
While the assessment was being conducted, the EPA reevaluated EtO and reclassified it from a probable human carcinogen to a known human carcinogen, while also increasing its toxicity value.
The 2018 assessment, based on 2014 data, identified four census tracts in West Virginia, all of which are nearby EtO-emitting facilities in Institute and South Charleston.
The potentially elevated risk is not due to new emission sources or increased emissions from permit holders, but rather to the EPA’s finding that long-term exposure to EtO may be more harmful than previously thought.
This potential risk is based on assuming continuous exposure to elevated levels of EtO for 24 hours per day, seven (7) days per week, over 70 years.
The WVDEP has collected updated and site-specific emissions data, conducted short-term air monitoring, performed more accurate emissions modeling, and engaged with the public through multiple in-person and virtual meetings.
Since the release of the 2018 report, the EPA has replaced the NATA with a new screening tool – AirToxScreen. This assessment estimates air toxics using emissions data from the most recent year of complete data available.
From 2014 to 2021, the reported EtO emissions from the Institute site have decreased by over 50 percent and emissions from the South Charleston site have decreased by over 80 percent.
The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, Bureau for Public Health, mapped all cases of the types of cancers potentially related to EtO in Kanawha County from 1993 through 2019. Areas with the highest rates of these cancers do not cluster around the facilities identified by the EPA, nor does Kanawha County have higher rates of these cancers compared to the rest of West Virginia.
The WVDEP is committed to staying engaged nationally as the EPA works to update regulations to reduce impacts from hazardous air pollutant emissions like EtO. The WVDEP is continuing to work with West Virginia facilities and communities to reduce the potential health risks associated with air toxic emissions.