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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 attorneys from LaMarca & Landry, PC, filed a lawsuit against the West Coast Cooperative in the Iowa District Court for Greene County. The parties to this lawsuit are homeowners, business owners, and individuals who work at nearby businesses such as MicroSoy, Electrolux, and American Concrete.
Causes of action include: negligence, negligence, trespass, res ipsa loquitur, and strict liability for doing an abnormally dangerous activity. The lawsuits stem from numerous environmental and health changes that have occurred since the Jefferson Plant in West Central Iowa began operating on February 14, 2005. These problems originate primarily from the discharge of hydrogen chloride, hydrochloric acid, and particulate matter from the Soy Chlor plant. contains one or both of these chemicals. Soy Chlor is a patented dairy feed additive that combines hydrochloric acid with soy products.
The lawsuit also alleges violations of West Central Cooperative’s IDNR operating permit for the plant, as well as violations of the Chemical Hazards Act and other environmental laws and applicable standards of care.
West Central opened a business – SoyChlor – in February. Waste from the plant has since corroded metal buildings and other property within a mile of the plant, the suit says. The waste also destroyed grass and other vegetation, killed wildlife, damaged windows and discolored surrounding structures and roadside rocks, the plaintiffs allege.
The plaintiffs allege the plant exceeded legal emissions limits for both hydrogen chloride and “particulate matter,” or dust. When combined with moisture, the chemical turns into hydrochloric acid, a highly corrosive substance that is toxic to humans and animals.
“It’s daylight, 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 compliance now,” said Neil Ramsbottom, Ralston’s West Central vice president of soybeans and feed, but he added that the company plans to increase the height of the SoyChlor waste tower to 94 feet and wider. disperse wastes and reduce their presence on earth. West Central also plans to install an additional scrubbing system, Ramsbottom said, adding that the combined steps will be enough to ensure the plant’s emissions meet legal standards.
The company has asked the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, which oversees emissions from manufacturing plants, to allow the change.
Dave Phelps, who oversees the DNR division that oversees such permits, said the department is willing to grant the company’s request, but he also expects to hold a public comment period and public hearing on the issue this month. to be He also said recent testing showed the plant’s dust emissions exceeded the limits allowed by state law.
George LaMarca, a Des Moines lawyer representing the plaintiffs in the case, said the public hearing and opportunity for public input were good moves, but they should have taken place before the plant opened.
Ball, the owner of a used car business, said Monday that his 15-year-old son, Colton Conroy, was sickened by SoyChlor waste. A month ago, a second-year high school student fell in a football game, and an attending physician blamed SoyChlor emissions for the health problems that first appeared after the plant opened.
Ball and his wife, Diane Conroy, said that since his collapse, the teenager has been living with his grandparents on the south side of the city and his symptoms have subsided.
“He could run and play football and play everything a year ago and have no problem,” Ball said.
SoyChlor uses hazardous materials, including hydrogen chloride, to add a patented product to feed for dairy cows. Hydrogen chloride is a harmful gas that can be toxic to humans and animals.
When it mixes with moisture, it becomes hydrochloric acid, a highly corrosive substance capable of eating through cars, eating through windshields and killing wildlife and plants — all in what residents say is a “collapse zone.” gave extending a mile or more in each direction from the plant. Gas, acid, and particulate matter contaminated by the gas or acid are vented through a stack located on top of a concrete tower at the north end of the plant.
“In Iowa, when you live in a community this size, you accept it because it’s agriculture,” said Jeff Ostendorf, a Jefferson cattle producer who works with MicroSoy Corp., a soybean-based food ingredient maker located across the state. SoyChlor street. “This is different.”
Bonnie Burkhardt lives across the street south of SoiChlor. One day last week, she flipped through notebooks and three-ring binders in which she kept track of communications about the dispute with government officials, company officials and others in the community.
A notebook details the possible harmful effects of the toxic substances used by SoyChlor, along with reports from doctors who treated Burkhardt and others who say they have experienced the condition this year.
Families report that previously energetic children now sleep too much and quickly lose energy. Colton Conroy, a 15-year-old who is 6 feet tall, gets wind easily and loses 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, Gross has been doing well despite chronic lung disease. But after opening SoyChlor, he quickly lost ground and struggled 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 raised 10 children here with her husband. Gross doesn’t want to live anywhere else.
Gross and Burkhardt are also concerned about the loss of wildlife. They said that the pigeons that were sitting on top of the high structure of the grain warehouse to the north of the SoyChlor plant passed by. Gone are the bluejays, cardinals, ospreys and other birds that perched on the numerous feeders in Gross’s yard. He hasn’t seen a bird in weeks.
“All of a sudden there were no more birds, not even sparrows,” said Gross, who lives in a trailer park about a mile from the plant.
In addition, stains have been found on the trim of cars and on the sides of houses and other buildings, even on mailboxes.
West Central Insurer has hired a Florida company to clean up vehicles damaged by debris, Jefferson residents said. They also said the insurer offered checks of up to $100 to residents claiming property damage, even though recipients were required to sign a form releasing the co-op and its affiliates from further claims.
Burkhardt said she first noticed her skin burning while working in the flower garden. Eventually, it led him inside the house, where he took a shower to put out the fire. It was last spring, after a few months in Florida with her husband, Chuck.
At the same time, Arlette Tasler and her husband returned from a winter in Texas. Both are said to have developed coughs that have lasted for months. Sometimes, Tasler said, she coughs so hard she vomits.
Like Burkhardt, the Taslers had nothing to do with the cause.
Burkhardt and her friend Diane Conroy talked to neighbors and people who work in nearby businesses. Within a mile of Burkhardt’s home, they found dozens of people reporting similar symptoms. They first noticed a strange smell, like that of an empty beer keg that had been left out in the hot sun for a day, Conroy said.
Then health problems appeared. Then spots on cars and buildings. Then the film on the windows and windshields, which could not be removed by scrubbing. And some people noticed that their glasses were dented.
The women searched the Internet for information about SoyChlor and the chemicals used.
The more they learned, the more convinced they were that the culprit was Soykhlor.
“If you take this in your lap, if it’s a dent, think about it going into your lungs,” said Tasler, who lives with her husband, Shorty, 49, on a farm directly east of the plant, where she raised eight children. what is he doing”.
Burkhardt, Conroy, and others contacted the city’s sanitation chief, the public health nurse, and the editor of the local newspaper. They contacted the government – environmental and safety regulators, US senators in Iowa and even the White House.
Conroy and her husband, Jeb Ball, contacted their attorney in Des Moines. He referred them to George LaMarca, another Des Moines attorney. LaMarca knew how deadly hydrogen chloride could be. The gas incapacitated some of the victims in the deadliest fire in Des Moines history, which engulfed the Younkers department store in the Merle Hay Mall on November 5, 1978. LaMarca represented the victims’ survivors in a lawsuit that dragged on for years and eventually led to settlement for plaintiffs.
He has only five words for the cooperative: “We want the factory to be closed.”
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