Question: Building a case against Aluf Plastics -- polluting my town & I need help

michaelwma is asking a question about air-quality: Subscribe to answer questions on this topic

michaelwma asked on December 14, 2018 02:46
199 | 2 answers | #17892


I live in a town next to a business called Aluf Plastics. They manufacture industrial liners and other plastic products in its 500,000-square-foot factory, which runs six days a week, 24 hours a day.

Our local paper has written much about this:

https://www.lohud.com/story/news/2018/03/06/orangeburg-residents-want-aluf-clear-air/394923002/

I am on the periphery of the group of organizers "Clean Air for Orangetown" who have been organizing and lobbying local politicians to enforce regulations and sanctions on Aluf; however, we have had trouble getting proper scientific testing done to prove something that the those who live close to Aluf (my dear friends) suffer every day. Stenches so bad that they literally suffocate the youth in the area. The town high school and an elementary school are not more than 1 mile away.

The problem has been that the one scientific study that was done was poorly executed and yielded inconclusive results, such that getting support from our town and state government has proven difficult.

Specifically, one report stated:

Air Safety

All analysis and commentary within this memo relate to the TRC Emissions Evaluation Report. Our statement as regarding the ambient air in the area from our memorandum of April 22nd, 2018 is reiterated here for the record: "Area testing as conducted recently indicates the air has minimal to no risk for residents, with all levels of all chemicals falling below the Short Term Guideline Concentrations (SGC's), and most falling below the Annual Guideline Concentrations (AGC's). There were small exceedances of AGCs' for Acrolein, Benzene and Carbon Tetrachloride, but even if one were to apply the 24-hour samples to the AGC's these small exceedances would have minimal or no impact on health, given that the AGC's are set very conservatively. However, as these are 24 hour samples and complaints appear to be sporadic/not continuous, it is impossible to know with certainty whether such a projection would actually be an accurate representation of a resident's annual exposure, whether higher or lower."

I have attached a few documents here for background.

Air_Quality_Committee_Emissions_Evaluation_Report_Comments_Memo.pdf

Air_Quality_Committee_Phase_II_In_Depth_Analysis.pdf

Aluf_Update_09252018.pdf

My questions to a more enlightened group is:

  • Do the scientists here have the same conclusions as found in the studies attached?
  • What may we do with science to push things forward?
  • How can we leverage the network and potentially hardware of Public Lab to help?

Forgive me, since I am not a scientist, nor familiar with how this network works, so I am just posting as complete of a picture of what the challenge is in hopes that someone may be able to provide some advice.



6 Comments

This will take a while- so bear with m e.

Many black plastic bags are made of polyvinyl chloride ( PVC). When this degrades, it generates hydrochloric acid ( HCl). This usually grabs the nostrils in your nose and pulls. Please check and see if the bags being produced are PVC.

The degradation, when it does occur, should only happen when the plastic sees a lot of extra heat. Usually, this is when there has been a power outage, and the pvc in the extruder has been allowed to cool without moving. When power comes back on, there will be a lot of extra heat seen by the pvc and extra HCl generated.

There are other situations, too. Sometimes, during cleanout, it happen. But the first step is to see if the plant uses PVC. Then see if the detection method could identify HCl. Maybe use a draeger tube for HCl the next time, just to be sure.

The sheets of polymer can be made out of many materials, some of which are PVC, LDPE, and HDPE. On top of this, there are a variety of materials added. For example, thin sheets of plastic tend to stick together. One common material used to stop this sticking is " erucyl amide", although there are others. From the list of items detected, it doesn't seem like erucyl amide was the source. Although it could be other slip agents.


One other item got some attention. The company put some antimicrobials in some of their products. These can often be irritating to humans, especially in high levels. I don't know if you could find out when then problem started and see when they put the anti microbial in the products. See if the two match.

It's not an answer, but it is a start. Good luck.


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The "repro" mentioned in the report is short for reprocessing. This plastic ha s seen a lot of heat and is much more likely to break down. Hence the report recommendation to stop the factory operation.

The highest extruder temp used in the plants I 'm familiar with is about 420 f. The 500 f limit on the report ( suggesting the plant ran at higher temps) was a surprise.

One chemical to keep an eye on is methylene chloride ( also called dichloromethane). It was detected, but not on the Aluf roof. This chemical is often used as a polymer solvent and is pretty nasty. There are many other sources besides polymers, but please keep your eyes open for this one. It is also heavier than air.

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Suggestions- Identify polymers used in products produced. Hopefully, this will be supplied by Aluf.
Identify possible hazardous ingredients of products. Hopefully, manufacturer will provide this in an SDS. But, no guarantee. Identify air and water test sites down stream and down wind from the site ( often times these are at water treatment plants, at least for water). Identify decomposition products of polymers ( hopefully contained in SDS). Check and see if there was any variation in test data ( say pH) when a the fire happened or odors happened.

If PVC is present, large amounts of HCl would have been produced. This should have shown up in air and water. It might even have shown up on some of the buildings as degraded bricks.

After this work is done, it is what testing needs done on the local environment. Depending on what is generated when the product degrades, test for that. For example, again with PVC, Tin is a possibility.

Thank you, I think I need to connect the scientists in the organizing group to this thread for more context.


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