Community Talks, Dupont Listens

Does the Dupont pose health risks?

The plant is trying to increase its air emissions as well as production expansion,and the public is demanding more answers to that question.

Community members took their stands at a public hearing Thursday night.

The public hearing was held to discuss two permits Dupont applied for last year.

The first is known as the "retroactive" permit.

The company wants the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality to re-evaluate previous permits using new emissions data after realizing and admitting it exceeded many of its air permits in the past few years.

The second permit is called the sustainable growth permit. This permit would allow the company to increase production of approximately 16% at the plant.

After a brief presentation of the company's request for two new permits, the floor was open to the few hundred people who had gathered at the West Harrison County Civic Center to voice their opinions.

Some believe Dupont is an example of what companies should do - invest in its community. Therefore, they support its expansion and its ways of improvement.

"Prior to Dupont, there was Stennis in Hancock county and then Dupont, and it's been very refreshing to move back 10 years ago to the number of professional people who live above who work for a living wage," said Maurice Singleton.

"It is important that we continue to invest in our community, we continue to invest in our schools. If that revenue was not there, it would cause a reduction in our operational funds, which would be a reduction in teachers," said Becky Montgomery.

While these and others see the proposed permits as a symbol of growth, others see them as only a symbol of even more pollution in the community.

"Dupont does not contribute to the health of the community. They do contribute money for the future of the community. But there are other companies that have just as many employees, that produce as many dollars tax-wise or salary-wise that don't pollute us to death," said Paula Vassey.

"Would you value Dupont if it were your son or daughter with leukemia. If a drug pusher donates money to your school community, do you embrace him? Drugs kill, and so do toxins,"said Brenda Sonjy.

While many were either for or against the permits, one man summed up an opinion in which both sides agreed.

"As a small businessman I can empathize with their desire to grow their business, but I'm not a scientist or a technician. I'm not really qualified to comment on the permitting process. The only thing I would like to do is encourage you to make the right decision on what is best for the health and welfare in the interests of the citizens of the Gulf Coast," said Joel Fields.

These and other comments will be sent to the State Environmental Permit Board for consideration.