Metro Council voted yesterday to return a resolution to give tax incentives to a Rubbertown company back to committee, after hearing from numerous West Louisville residents about health concerns in the neighborhood.
Lubrizol is seeking to expand its Rubbertown facility to meet a growing global demand for products it makes out of chlorinated polyvinyl chloride. Governor Steve Beshear announced the expansion back in September, saying that the would create 25 jobs and invest more than $108 million. At the time, the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority preliminarily approved the company for $480,000 in tax incentives through the Kentucky Business Investment program. A resolution approving those tax incentives was before the Metro Council last night.
But before the council voted, members heard from two Rubbertown residents with concerns.
Eboni Neal Cochran of Rubbertown Emergency ACTion (REACT) told the council that she’s concerned about the effect the expansion would have on the local environment. Specifically she was concerned about dioxins. These toxic chemicals are ubiquitous in the environment, and have been linked to health problems like cancer, hormone disruption and fertility problems.
I called Lubrizol plant manager Sam Striegel today to ask about the company’s dioxin emissions. He says the line the company is expanding—chlorinated polyvinal chloride, or CPVC—doesn’t create dioxins. He says the expansion of the CPVC line will increase the capacity by 50 percent, and the company will comply with all of its environmental permits and Louisville’s Strategic Toxic Air Reduction program.
Metro Council members also heard from Krystal Cox, who noted numerous health concerns in her neighborhood. She says on her block alone, two children were born without a thyroid and one child died of lymphoma. Cox has a rare kidney cancer, and says her husband has a rare blood disorder.
“So really, I want you to think really hard about the expansion,” she said. “I think in this area, on this one little short street, that there are so many illnesses that are rare and uncalled for that you should do a statistical analysis before you expand another factory and let more chemicals.”
When the time came for Metro Council members to vote on the resolution, they were hesitant. Councilwoman Cheri Bryant Hamilton moved that the measure be sent back to the Labor and Economic Development Committee. The motion ultimately passed, with Councilwoman Mary Woolridge Councilman James Peden also questioning whether it wasn’t time for a comprehensive epidemiological study of Rubbertown residents.
“This resolution aside, the fact that we love those industrial jobs aside, has anybody ever actually done a statistical analysis of how many sick people there really are?” Peden asked. “Because I’d hate to think that I’m a part of keeping that going.”
The resolution is on the agenda for the next meeting of the Metro Labor and Economic Development Committee on February 20.