Since Hurricane Katrina, Delisle Elementary has served as a hub for hundreds of school children in Pass Christian. The Sierra Club claims soil samples from this school, surrounding neighborhoods and the Dupont Plant just down the road contain unsafe levels of contamination.
"Health claims made by the Sierra Club, based on previous studies, are both wrong and very inaccurate and irresponsible," said Plant Manager Pat Nichols.
Dupont-Delisle hired its own expert to analyze the same data that the Sierra Club used to make its case that there was enough arsenic in the soil to pose a health risk. The scientist says the Sierra Club's interpretation of the findings is flawed, because the environmental group didn't compare its data with federal EPA standards or the level of metals or dioxins that normally occur in soil.
"The arsenic that they found is very likely naturally occurring arsenic. It's not like it came from this plant or somebody else's plant. It's just what's there in Mississippi soil," said ChemRisk scientist Dr. Mark Harris.
"The data in these soil samples do not represent a health risk, or a threat to the environment," he added.
A spokesman for the Sierra Club says the group is sticking with its results and says Dupont is the one that's misleading the public.
"Dupont is going to say what is in Dupont's best interest. And when you look at the history, over time, at how many Superfund sites Dupont's been responsible for and how many communities they have told 'we're safe, our process is safe, and we're not polluting', and you look at the number of Superfund sites, it's obvious. They've been wrong more than they've been right," said Paul Stewart.
Whether Dupont is wrong or right could hinge on the EPA, which is expected to release its findings in a few weeks. The EPA conducted its own study right after the hurricane and Dupont officials say they are confident the results will back up the companies findings that there is no health risk.