Protection file

Environmental Protection Agency lawsuit threatened over ethylene oxide emissions in Laredo

Following a long-awaited Environmental Protection Agency meeting seen by some as ushering in new protections against ethylene oxide emissions, the Clean Air Laredo Coalition’s discontent at the regard to the panel has now led them to partner with Earthjustice and file a 60-day letter of intent targeting the federal agency.

Additionally, the city has moved forward on EtO air monitoring, and at Monday night’s meeting, the city council voted to fund air monitors in conjunction with the county and school districts. The decision came after a heated argument, underscoring the raw emotion following the issue.

According to Raul Garcia, legislative director of Earthjustice for Healthy Communities, the letter of intent to sue is to keep the EPA from “falling asleep on the job” and get them to act. He said the EtO emissions resolution should have been done eight years ago, but the agency has continually pushed the schedule back and as of Monday there is no correct data.

“The consequences are very real…because what we’re seeing are direct impacts on those communities and on those same kids,” Garcia said. “I think the EPA needs to learn from these communities like Laredo who are fighting back. They need to understand that this problem is not going away. The community continues to pressure them and we will take them to court if necessary.

During the press conference at City Hall, members of the coalition, Earthjustice, and families affected by cancer came together to decry the EPA’s inaction regarding both the slow adoption process EtO regulations to reduce emissions and their lack of support for fence monitoring.

Regarding air monitoring, RGISC Director of Climate Science and Policy, Sheila Serna, said that despite the EPA’s insistence that modeling is a better alternative to air monitoring the air of EtO broadcasts, the coalition has secured support from Webb County and the City of Laredo, and the coalition plans to move forward with setting up the air monitors themselves.

Serna said other cities have started their own air monitoring and have found discrepancies between EPA data and air monitoring data. For example, she talked about the EPA modeling in Los Angeles for EtO which said there was no violation of the chemical in the air. However, with monitoring, the levels were five times higher than the levels allowed by the EPA.

“What they could have done as well was say, ‘We’re going to invest in your community, and we’re going to join you and your air monitoring plan,’ but they didn’t.” , she said. “Instead they came to tell us what we already knew – that it was dangerous, and they didn’t even do a good job of explaining how dangerous it is and the amount that comes from the sterilization of the Midwest So it seemed really open-ended, like there was no real solution.

As a result, city leaders voted Monday to fund the difference for EtO monitoring after UISD and LISD indicated their funding intentions and the amount. So far, the county has invested $35,000 in air monitoring, and the approximate funding goal is $140,000 for several months of monitoring.

District VII Council Member Vanessa Perez said the air control study will focus on ensuring independent data is obtained instead of relying on data from the Midwest Sterilization Corporation, as the did the EPA. She added that while some strongly insist that water infrastructure be a priority, Laredo’s air quality is of equal importance.

She also criticized state and federal agencies for their disconnect between the two issues, as the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality tested Laredo’s water to ensure it was safe to drink. but does not test the air for harmful emissions. Perez said people need both air and water, and she asked why there was a lack of air monitoring.

As they did last week, emotions have continued to run high as families with cancer who live in the area worry about the possible connection. Among them is Carla Ortiz, who is the mother of 13-year-old Yaneli. She discussed her predicament at the EPA meeting last week.

“My daughter almost died,” Ortiz said. “We were in intensive care for almost three months, and they didn’t want to give him a chance. We had to drive to Corpus because there is no children’s hospital here. So we had to suffer day and night, and multiple operations after operations.

Ortiz’s family was also present Monday and called on local residents to speak out for the protection of current and future generations of children. Cesar Ortiz, Yaneli’s father, said his daughter suffered as a result of her diagnosis and the surgeries performed, including hip and shoulder replacements. He reiterated many times to speak on behalf of all affected children now and in the future.

“This damn cancer stole our joy, stole our happiness from my family for many days,” Ortiz said. “So far my daughter is in pain, and I urge all families to not be ashamed to be here and raise their voices that their children need the love and care to sustain them.”

Alongside the Ortiz family, Olivia Martinez was scheduled to speak at the conference, but her son’s cancer diagnosis proved too difficult to discuss.

As she was consoled, Rio Grande International Study Center executive director Tricia Cortez shared the story, saying Martinez’s son was diagnosed with brain tumors after living in Rancho Viejo and attending schools in the region the EPA had previously declared among 23 across the country. sterilizers that created an undue cancer risk for nearby residents of at least 1 in 10,000.

After earning an MBA from TAMIU, Cortez said via Olivia Martinez that her son felt like his life had been stolen from him because he was ready to go to law school.

Midwest Sterilization Corporation issued a statement following last week’s EPA meeting.

“Midwest takes its regulatory compliance seriously,” the statement said. “We are currently in compliance with all federal and state emission control requirements and plan to remain in compliance, including when the new regulations are enacted. EtO is an important tool to protect the health of patients. Midwest is taking all necessary steps to ensure the safety of patients across the country and local residents. Additionally, we are currently working on additional emission control measures ahead of the new EPA regulatory timeline.

At Monday’s council meeting, Garcia and council member Dr. Marte Martinez had a heated discussion as Garcia said haggling money took priority over children’s health.

“Sir, this is the second time you’ve accused us of something irresponsible and disrespectful,” Martinez said. “We’re here to try to help, and you’ve done it twice to accuse us of saying we don’t care about the kids. I don’t like it, we care about the kids. We are trying to create an action plan.

Ultimately, the city leaders’ decision shifted the focus from general air quality to monitoring EtO emissions, and eyes will now turn to the districts to see if they will cooperate and invest in surveillance.