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COSSMHO REQUESTS EPA ACTION ON ROBSTOWN, TEXAS, CHEMICAL EMISSION AFFECTING OVER 1,000

 WASHINGTON, Feb. 17 /PRNewswire/ -- "Once again the Hispanic community is used as a dumping ground," said COSSMHO President and CEO Jane L. Delgado. "When you can gas a town of Hispanics with toxins and then have the impunity to shrug it off and say the health effects aren't really serious, there is no environmental equity for our community," she added, referring to statements made by John O. Foster, plant manager for OxyChem Petrochemicals' Corpus Christi, Texas, plant.
 The National Coalition of Hispanic Health and Human Services Organizations (COSSMHO) today requested that EPA's Office of Enforcement follow-up on an accidental release of 1,3 butadiene into the atmosphere on Oct. 23-24, 1992, by the OxyChem Corpus Christi plant. COSSMHO also requested that the case be referred to the Environmental Crimes Section of the Justice Department for violations of CERCLA and EPCRA. "Given EPA's commitment to environmental equity and new Attorney General-designate Reno's commitment to pursuing environmental crimes, we'll be watching the Robstown case closely," said Delgado. Prior attempts by COSSMHO to determine whether EPA was or would be conducting an investigation were unsuccessful. Vice President Gore's office was also notified of COSSMHO's request to the EPA.
 "This incident has more to do than with just poor communication between Robstown and OxyChem. I think OxyChem's behavior on the night of the incident was callous and criminal -- they are very precise about when the release began, but even though they were called by local emergency officials following-up on citizen complaints, they did not release critical information about what chemical they were emitting until it was too late," said Delgado. "If OxyChem had followed the EPCRA and CERCLA laws and notified federal, state and local officials immediately, there would have even been more than enough lead time for local officials to warn people," she added.
 The incident that is the subject of the letter occurred on Oct. 23-24, 1992, between about midnight and 1 a.m. when OxyChem Petrochemicals in Corpus Christ spewed 4,652 pounds of 1,3 butadiene into the atmosphere after an accident in the plant made it necessary to flare-off butadiene, and when the flare that was burning the gas as it was emitted was extinguished. As a result, 1,3 butadiene was released directly into the air, and the resulting toxic cloud made its way to nearby Robstown, Texas, a small mostly Hispanic community about two miles away. Studies of rubber industry workers suggest a link between 1,3 butadiene exposure and heart disease, lung disease, blood disease and cancer. 1,3 butadiene has also been found to cause blood disease, cancer, and liver and kidney disease in animals exposed to high levels. On the night of the incident the smell of 1,3 butadiene was so strong in the air that it woke people up and prompted hundreds of calls to local authorities asking for assistance and information about what to do.
 COSSMHO began investigating the incident after being contacted by Gilberto Jasso of the American GI Forum-Corpus Christi. COSSMHO staff visited the OxyChem facility in January 1992 and COSSMHO continues to work with the Corpus Christi GI-Forum in investigating the matter. A report on the Robstown incident will be published in the near future.
 COSSMHO, the only national Hispanic Organization focused on health, is a private, non-profit membership organization dedicated to improving Hispanic health and well-being. Funding is derived from the federal government, foundations, and corporations. COSSMHO does not accept funds from alcohol or tobacco companies or their subsidiaries.
 -0- 2/17/93
 /CONTACT: Raphael Metzger of COSSMHO, 202-797-4322/


CO: National Coalition of Hispanic Health and Human Services
 Organizations; OxyChem Petrochemicals ST: Texas IN: HEA CHM SU:


TW -- DC037 -- 7562 02/17/93 17:37 EST
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Date:Feb 17, 1993
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