Public meeting held addressing ethylene oxide in Kanawha County

Staff with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection discussed how they're addressing ethylene oxide air emissions in Kanawha County.
Published: Aug. 18, 2022 at 11:12 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection gave an update Thursday evening on how they’re addressing ethylene oxide air emissions in Kanawha County.

This is an issue WSAZ began investigating earlier this year.

The EPA has said EtO, a colorless, odorless gas that’s a cancer-causing agent, is being released into the air in the Kanawha Valley at one of the highest rates in the country.

Robbie Hendricks lives in North Charleston and is among those concerned about the levels of ethylene oxide emissions.

“A lot of families are concerned about it,” Hendricks said. “If they’ve got this stuff in the air and we’re all breathing it, what’s going to happen?”

Thursday evening, he was part of the crowd at the Schoenbaum Center in Charleston, where the DEP and several other state agencies discussed the issue.

The DEP says they’ve been working with the EPA, the Union Carbide facilities in Institute and South Charleston, and the DHHR to identify the risks. They say questions remain regarding the revised EPA risk factor for EtO.

DEP spokesperson Terry Fletcher says the facilities in question are in compliance with their permits. He says the Bureau for Public Health has conducted mapping and not found any cancer clusters around the facilities.

“Kanawha County doesn’t even rank in the top 10 in the state of these cancers,” he said.

Fletcher says the issue should not cause people to worry about their health.

“We don’t feel there is any reason to be concerned,” Fletcher said. “This is based on around the clock continuous exposure over 70 years, and many people will drive in and out of the impacted areas every day for work. It’s very unlikely anyone would be continuously exposed 24 hours a day for 70 years, and you have to reach that level in order to have this updated potential risk from ethylene oxide.”

Hendricks still fears the risk may be worse than they’re being told.

“I have skepticism,” Hendricks said. “You might not have cancer today, but tomorrow, down the road, there’s a possibility you’ll get it.”

The DEP says they’ve gotten results from the fourth round of its four-part project of EtO air sampling earlier this month. That sampling will be reviewed by the DEP and the EPA, and a final report on their findings is expected to be completed and available to the public in December.

The say the report will also guide future actions taken by the agencies.