Rubbertown and Health: An Ongoing Series

WFPL News is examining air pollution in Louisville's West End, and how it affects those living in close proximity to Rubbertown. The first nine segments will air in January, with help from the California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships, and will continue throughout the year.

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Environment
7:00 am
Sun January 27, 2013

Rubbertown and Health: The Whole Series

During the month of January, WFPL aired nine features on the issues posed in regulating toxic air emissions in Rubbertown—and the past, present and potential health concerns of residents. Here's a collection of those stories.

Louisville's Air Program Marks Successes, But Health Concerns Linger

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Environment
6:30 am
Fri January 25, 2013

No End in Sight for Clash Between Residents, Rubbertown Industry

Rail cars filled with the toxic chemical butadiene cross the road near Rubbertown.
Erica Peterson WFPL

Eboni Cochran says there’s a lot to like about her neighborhood in Louisville’s West End.

“You make a right and you will hit lots of green space, beautiful parkway with beautiful tall trees, with nice houses,” she says.

Cochran is a leader with a volunteer group called REACT: Rubbertown Emergency ACTion.

"But then to the left, you are going to run into lots of railroad tracks, you’re going to see railcars that are parked behind trees throughout your little route. And on the right you’re going to start seeing the beginnings of Rubbertown, chemical plants.”

And there’s the ‘but.’ Pretty much everyone I spoke with for this series—from Park DuValle to Riverside Gardens—said they like living where they live. But the health and safety problems—past, present and potential—seriously affect their quality of life.

So, what’s the answer? Do you kick out the industry? Move the people? Or find some middle ground where everyone can coexist? And for people who have spent their lives worried about toxic emissions from Rubbertown, is it even possible to coexist?

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Environment
6:30 am
Wed January 23, 2013

Interstate Traffic Makes Air Quality in Rubbertown Worse

Start your car. See that puff from the tailpipe in your rearview mirror? Benzene, butadiene, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide.

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Environment
6:30 am
Mon January 21, 2013

Southwest Louisville Residents Still Concerned About Long-Dormant Landfill

A sign on the Lees Lane Landfill warns of hazards.
Erica Peterson WFPL

For 35 years, the Lees Lane Landfill in Southwest Louisville took in everything the city wanted to throw out, from household trash to toxic chemicals. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates more than two million cubic yards of waste went into the landfill. And though it’s been closed and remediated, there are still unanswered questions about contamination at the site.

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Environment
6:30 am
Fri January 18, 2013

Riverside Gardens: A Former Resort Community Besieged By Pollution

The entrance to the Riverside Gardens subdivision.
Erica Peterson WFPL

The neighborhood Riverside Gardens was created as an oasis in the West End…a resort community for Louisvillians who wanted a quick, close getaway from the city. But after the 1937 flood and the rise of industry in Rubbertown, to the north, Riverside Gardens became just another subdivision. And now, the place where city dwellers used to go to get away from pollution is now surrounded on three sides by smokestacks and a former toxic dump.

Louisville was a dirty place in the 1920s.

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Environment
6:30 am
Wed January 16, 2013

Patients, Widows, Researchers Still Dealing With Toxic Legacy of Rubbertown Chemical

Revis Crecelius, seen here on the day he went to the hospital for surgery.
Erica Peterson WFPL

Seventy years ago, in the early days of Rubbertown, there were a lot of dirty jobs. But no job was dirtier than an entry-level post at the B.F. Goodrich plant. Workers called “poly cleaners” climbed into large vats that had held the chemical vinyl chloride to clean them. And now, decades later, some of these men—they’re all men—have developed serious liver problems. At least 26 of them have developed cancer, and all have died from it.

One of them was Janet Crecelius Johnson’s husband, Revis.

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Environment
6:30 am
Mon January 14, 2013

Lung, Colon Cancer Rates Higher Near Rubbertown Than Other Louisville Neighborhoods

Data from the Kentucky Cancer Registry. There's a significant difference in rates when the 95% confidence intervals don't overlap.
Erica Peterson WFPL

A new analysis shows that certain cancers are more prevalent in areas near the Rubbertown neighborhood in west and southwest Louisville. But it’s impossible to determine what role—if any—pollution from nearby industries plays in the elevated cancer rates.

Everyone in Rubbertown knows someone with cancer. But are people in these neighborhoods actually more likely to get cancer than other Louisville residents? I called someone who should know: Dr. Tom Tucker, the head of the Kentucky Cancer Registry.

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Environment
6:30 am
Fri January 11, 2013

Rubbertown Odor a Nuisance, But is it Illegal? Hard to Tell

In Rubbertown, industrial and residential areas coexist.
Erica Peterson WFPL

All of the major factories in Louisville's Rubbertown area have permits that allow them to put specific amounts of certain chemicals into the air. But when residents report unpleasant smells, it’s hard to know where they’re coming from and whether a factory is violating its permit.

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Environment
6:30 am
Wed January 9, 2013

Air Issues Plague Park DuValle, One of Louisville's Newest Planned Communities

In the late 1990s, Louisville spent nearly $200 million revitalizing a blighted area on the West End. Park DuValle emerged—and has since been nationally-recognized as a model mixed-income community. But one thing the city couldn't change was the neighborhood's location. And like the housing projects that stood before it, Park DuValle is next to Louisville’s industrial area. Residents say the odors in the air are often unbearable.

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Environment
6:30 am
Mon January 7, 2013

Louisville's Air Program Marks Successes, But Health Concerns Linger

A scene off of Bells Lane, in Rubbertown
Erica Peterson WFPL

Trish Lee’s small yellow house is a block away from Bells Lane, where many of the Rubbertown factories are concentrated. From her backyard, she can’t see the chemical plants, rail yards and oil refineries that have stood down the street for decades — but she can smell them just about anywhere.

“Sometimes it burns,” she said. “Like you can go outside, sometimes at night, and your eyes actually burn.”

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