Croda meets the environmental justice movement

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(Photo of the Croda ethylene oxide plant under construction)

Good afternoon everyone,

The environmental justice movement is picking up steam in the New Castle area. In the past few years, the movement here and elsewhere has pushed back against industries that most of us would not want in our backyard.

It’s an issue that the government and businesses have typically put on the back burner.

In the past, communities, many with lower-income populations, tolerated these operations. After all, neighbors worked at these sites.

As the years went on and the number of unionized blue-collar jobs shrunk, those ties disappeared.

Earlier this month, the New Castle County Council approved a resolution urging the rejection of a permit sought by British chemical company Croda. The company’s largely routine permit calls for building storage tanks at its Atlas Point site.

The tanks are not related to operations at Croda’s ethylene oxide plant – the site of a leak over a Thanksgiving weekend a couple of years ago.That plant is designed to use renewable feedstocks rather than polluting petrochemicals to produce the things that go into consumer products. Such initiatives are widely praised in the environmental community.

The leak exposed the weaknesses of an emergency information system geared toward landline phones and the time when the word could get out via a few TV or radio stations.

It turned out that the leak of the nasty stuff once used in chemical warfare. did not make its way past the plant itself.

Council members saw in the tank project a way to score political points and leverage the unhappiness of the nearby community over the previous leak.

By the way, the county has little or no jurisdiction. Approval is up to the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.

Council members were also spurred on by a previous victory regarding the expansion of a construction debris landfill in Minquadale.

A coalition that included Artesian Water led to a broad-based effort to stop the project from Waste Management. Pleas about blue-collar jobs at the landfill being in peril went unheard.

For its part, Artesian has been dealing with groundwater issues in the area near the New Castle Airport.Over the years, the chemical foam used in firefighting training made its way into the water supply.

It is worth noting that Croda has invested more than $100 million at the Atlas Point site and preserved increasingly jobs with good paychecks.

Still, the company has some work to do in the community outreach department.

In the meantime, DNREC has extended the window for public comment on the project from the end of today to August 15.

The​official hearingtranscript​, along with information and all comments received on this matter to date, areavailable​for reviewon the​Crodahearing page.

Enjoy your weekend. This newsletter returns on Monday. – Doug Rainey, chief content officer.

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