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Daily News Blog

08
Mar

Creosote-Induced Health Problems Persist from Springfield, MO Production, Now Superfund, Site

(Beyond Pesticides, March 7, 2023) An old Kerr-McGee Wood Treatment Facility is still causing health issues among residents in Springfield, Missouri. The former site of pressure-treated railroad tie production remains contaminated with creosote, a concoction of dangerous chemicals including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, phenols, and creosols. While residents are still dealing with lingering effects of a now shuttered production site, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is set to reregister creosote (wood preservatives are regulated as pesticides in the U.S.), perpetuating the harm caused by this material despite the wide availability of alternatives.

The wood treatment facility in question operated for nearly 100 years, releasing significant levels of creosote-related chemicals throughout the immediate region. The Kerr-McGee Corporation spun off its liability for a range of hazardous sites previously under its control to a separate company called Tronox, which subsequently declared bankruptcy in 2009. Andarko Petroleum then purchased Kerr-McGee, but, during bankruptcy proceedings, Tronox filed a complaint against both Andarko and Ker-McGee, alleging fraudulent conveyance of the liabilities. As EPA explains, “At the core of the plaintiffs’ complaints is the allegation that the Defendants fraudulently transferred valuable assets out of Tronox and left Tronox with insufficient funds to pay the billions of dollars of liabilities that Tronox owed to involuntary creditors.” A bankruptcy settlement led by the Southern District of New York resulted in the companies being liable for over $5 billion in environmental claims and liabilities, the largest settlement to date on this issue.

While large corporations played a shell game with regulators, everyday residents continued to experience harm from the site. Longtime resident June Smith was interviewed by local new station KOLR10, explaining, “Every Friday night they released the creosote and I have a ditch out there in back and it smelled so bad you could not be outside,” Ms. Smith said. “It would burn your eyes. It would hurt so bad. You didn’t cook out or go outside then because it was awful.”

While burning eyes and bad smells will ruin anyone’s outdoor experience, the impacts of the plant go far beyond mere inconveniences for residents. These minor impacts were merely the acute effects of chemicals that pose much greater long=term risks.

“Everybody in this neighborhood has died of cancer,” Ms. Smith told KOLR10. “I can take you from house to house. One of my best friends at the top of the hill is now dying of cancer. My husband died, so it’s very much bad stuff.”

Unfortunately, such a situation is not isolated to Springfield residents. Dozens upon dozens of Superfund sites around the country are caused by the former production or process of highly hazardous wood preservatives. In Houston, residents announced a lawsuit against Union Pacific Railroad for its contamination of properties. Residents, like Latonya Payne, are telling the story of Corinthian Giles, a 13-year-old boy she was the legal guardian of who died of leukemia after a five-year battle with the disease. A recent report found that the Houston community is in the midst of a childhood leukemia cancer cluster, with disease rates five times the national average.

While EPA Administrator Michael Regan toured the region as part of his Journey to Justice tour, EPA is currently in the process of reauthorizing creosote use for another 15 years, despite a history that shows it is impossible to produce and use creosote without causing contamination and poisoning.

Advocates are concerned that EPA is continuing to move too slowly to eliminate toxic wood preservatives and promote safer alternatives. After nearly a century of use, the agency is cancelling the highly toxic wood preservative pentachlorophenol (penta), taking action after Beyond Pesticides joined with local residents, reporters, and legislators to stop its last potential production site in the country.  Yet it has done so with a 5-year phase-out period, ultimately allowing economic decisions to trump the health of vulnerable residents.

Steel, concrete, and composite represent viable alternatives to hazardous wood preservatives and provide a lifespan of 80 to 100 years. And while wood preservatives are likely to require re-treatment, steel, concrete and fiberglass do not. In addition, disposal costs for chemicals used in wood treatment are high and continue to grow, while steel can be recycled. Communities may also choose to bury their utility lines if conditions are appropriate.

Join Beyond Pesticides in urging EPA to immediately ban all toxic wood preservatives in favor of nontoxic alternatives.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source:  KOLR10, EPA Case Summary: Tronox Incorporated Bankruptcy Settlement

 

 

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2 Responses to “Creosote-Induced Health Problems Persist from Springfield, MO Production, Now Superfund, Site”

  1. 1
    Tiffany Pasco Says:

    I have tremendous concerns for the residents that formerly and currently inhabit the lands around Kerr McGee. My mother lives directly across the street from the “landfarm” and original waste lagoon was once located but at the public meeting the lady informed us that the only testing done was to the northeast. No soil, air, or water wells northwest, southwest, or southeast of the facility were of no concern. Also, EPA never tested any of theses neighborhoods and allowed attorneys funded by Kerr McGee to do so. MO Dept of Natural Resources conducted investigation in 2004 states no potential harm exists to human health but all the creosote collections discovered present a very conflicting suggestion of ongoing and imminent threat to human health. We grew up in that neighborhood and played in those very same trenches. My father had meningitis in 2003 and spent a yr in the hospital and died recently with a 144 mL tumor in his brain. Coincidentally,he was born in Columbus OH near the kerr mcgee facility and suffered from extreme sensitivities to the sun and battled that his entire life.bis mother died of renal failure at only 42 yrs of age. My mother suffers from esophageal and stomach conditions. My sister recently has been declared to have leukemia,my niece the same with severe epileptical episodes and heart damage. My aunt has leukemia. My mother’s neighbors wife suffers from mymphoma and it goes on and on and on. Nobody has yet to have been contacted by Tronox tort claims. That’s 4 generations of my family poisoned by a billion dollar. orporation and left to die under above illegal toxin living conditions with no relief or assistance from the parties responsible for the contamination. Nobody advocated for the citizens of Springfield, MO. Nobody informed these residents of any proceeds due to them and the facility operated longer then the majority of them. So your telling me with all the seepages discovered over the years and all of the confounding evidence that proves that there is great potential of harm to the residents and still no ody has done anything about it??? On top of the Litton Industries contamination that has still yet to receive any remedial action, I guess the city of Springfield is just fucked up shits creek without a paddle huh???

  2. 2
    Philz Landscaping & Contracting LLC Says:

    I appreciate the valuable information shared in this article about the contamination caused by the Kerr-McGee Wood Treatment Facility in Springfield, Missouri. It highlights the importance of addressing the health risks faced by the community and emphasizes the need for proactive measures to prevent such incidents in the future.

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