Activists Get A Behind The Scenes Look At DuPont

It's not a stretch to say that the Sierra Club and the Dupont Plant in Delisle are usually at odds with one another. Protests and complaints are common, most anytime the chemical making company puts a new project on the table or needs a new environmental permit from state or federal agencies.

Dupont is about to ask for several permits to make some changes and expansions at the plant. So Friday, Dupont invited some of its most vocal critics to take a closer look.

Members of the Sierra Club and other concerned citizens got a rare up close look at many areas of the plant normally off limits to the general public.

"I really appreciate the opportunity to learn a little bit more. I've never been on site out here in the waste pit area. I still have many, many concerns," Sierra Club Member Jerry Landrum said.

Landrum's concerns are about DuPont's latest request to fill in wetlands and build a new waste disposal site.

Dupont has eight disposal sites on its property. They're used to hold waste materials from the manufacture of titanium dioxide.

The Delisle Plant produces 270,000 tons of titanium dioxide each year, and the waste pits are nearly full.

"In 2001 there were 700,000 pounds of what EPA considers to be toxic material that came onto the land out here. There is wildlife out here around these waste pits. Over time, life tends to accumulate these toxic materials. And with humans up on the end of the food chain, over a period of time, there will probably be an increase in incidents of disease," Landrum said.

Others were concerned about a hurricane disturbing the stored materials.

"Not so much from a flooding standpoint, because they seem to have plans in place to try to keep the waste high enough to protect it. I'm more concerned about the wind. What's going to happen when the wind comes though and actually begins to migrate that material up into the atmosphere," Bay St. Louis Resident Paul Stewart said.

Dupont says the solid waste materials are heavy and compacted and the safety of plant employees and the community surrounding them always comes first.

"We want to be viewed as an organization that will engage. We think that if we engage with the public that people will understand or have a better appreciation for what we do," Dupont Site Operations Manager, Donald Dees said.

DuPont officials say if more people know about the safety precautions they take, they'll feel better about the chemical production going on here.

A public hearing on the waste disposal site will be held on Thursday, June 24th at 7pm at the West Harrison County Civic Center.

by Al Showers