Lead image from the U.S. Chemical and Safety Hazard Investigation Board, from the Formosa Plastics in Illiopolis, Illinois plant explosion in 2004
The Formosa Company has opened many plants around the world that are known for making plastics including polyvinyl chloride resins and other intermediate plastic products. The company has been a notable bad actor for years as their plants have caused massive toxic releases, dangerous explosions, superfund sites, as well as other environmental and human health and wellbeing concerns. Formosa is aiming to open another plant in St. James Parish, Louisiana. In this post, we will document the other Formosa plants around the world, and the ways in which the company has negatively effected the communities and the environment. You can read more about the project to Stop Formosa in St. James here.
Formosa in Texas:
The Formosa Plastics Port Comfort facility in Port Comfort, Texas, is the largest Formosa plant in the United States. It's also the cause of the largest citizen brought clean air and water lawsuit in US history. The company is responsible for "thousands of plastic pellets and other pollutants into Lavaca Bay and other nearby waterways." This case reached a $50 million settlement (Texas Tribune December 3, 2019).
This plant is also not without many other environmental, human health and community wellbeing issues. An explosion at this facility in 2005 caused several on-sight injuries and burned for nearly a week. Local authorities instituted a shelter in place order to the surrounding community while the Point Comfort Elementary School students and teachers were evacuated to nearby Port Lavaca, about five miles away (Wikipedia post on Formosa Plastics propylene explosion). The Houston Chronicle also reported that "a series of explosions, fires and toxic chemical releases from May 2013 through October 2016 resulted in plant workers being injured with second- and third-degree burns and chlorine inhalation. The incidents led to an investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency and the case by the Justice Department." To this issue, the company "has agreed to pay $2.85 million in civil penalties to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Air Act."
According to the New York Times, as far back as 1991 the plant "was fined $3.4 million by the E.P.A. and told to set up a $1 million trust fund for environmental education because the agency had found chemical contamination of soil and groundwater at the site, as well as improper storage of hazardous waste. At the time, the fine was the largest the agency had ever imposed for such infractions." Outside of environmental and human health concerns, the Formosa plant has also been cited for causing traffic congestion and an increase in vehicular accidents.
Formosa in Delaware
Formosa previously owned and operated a plant in the Delaware City area. In 2018 it announced plans to close down this plant and move operations to the Port Comfort facility in Texas (Victoria Advocate). This site also has a history of violating environmental regulations. "For decades, Formosa Plastics has ranked as one of the nation's top sources of vinyl chloride emissions. The 200-acre facility was declared a "Superfund" site in the early 1980s and its Delaware operating permit was revoked for two weeks in 1985 following repeated pollution releases." Studies found that the "groundwater under the site has been found to be heavily contaminated with the chemicals ethylene dichloride, trichloroethylene and vinyl chloride." The plant was hit with several major fines for violating air and water permits, and OSHA violations (Delaware Online).
Formosa in Illinois:
In 2004, Formosa's plant in Illinois had a massive explosion where "five workers were fatally injured and two others were seriously injured ...The explosion followed a release of highly flammable vinyl chloride, which ignited. The explosion forced a community evacuation and lighted fires that burned for several days at the plant (the US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board).
Formosa in Baton Rouge
While Formosa is interested in building the new plant in St. James Parish, LA, they already has a plant in Baton Rouge that for years has been a state bad actor. "The Formosa Plastics Plant in Baton Rouge has been in violation of the Clean Air Act every quarter since 2009 and in violation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act every quarter since 2004." (enddeathalley.org and the ECHO EPA portal)
Formosa in Taiwan:
This Taiwanese company also has industrial facilities in Taiwan. One such facility also recently had an explosion in July, 2021 and another reported in 2019. Several Taiwanese residents who have been poisoned by Formosa Plastics Pollution themselves for years, traveled all the way to Texas to stand with residents fighting against the pollution of yet another Formosa Plastics plant.
Formosa in Vietnam:
In 2015, Formosa's Ha Tinh steel mill suffered a structural failure, which resulted in at least 14 deaths. Just the next year, a massive chemical release killed at least 300 tons of marine animals, which affected the livelihood of more than 263,000 people and polluted 125 miles of coastline. The released chemicals included cyanide, phenols and iron hydroxide. A Formosa representative commented on the catastrophe by saying "You have to decide whether to catch fish and shrimp or to build a modern steel industry...[e]ven if you are the prime minister, you cannot choose both." After months of protest by Vietnamese citizens and their refusal to accept Formosa's denials, the Vietnamese government fined Formosa $500 million. Vietnam exports $7 billion dollars of seafood annually. The Vietnamese government imposed a two year ban on the catch or sale of seafood in the 125 mile area, but affected fisherfolk each only received $765 dollars, which is roughly equivalent to only three months average pay. Many activists and protesters were arrested or imprisoned for their work in exposing the extent of the damage and demanding that Formosa take responsibility. The plant has resumed operations, but remains unsafe; in August of 2021, three workers were killed when carbon dioxide leaked from the plant.
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