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Croda subject of federal chemical exposure lawsuit, as company sues New Castle County over zoning

Courtesy of
Croda's Atlas Point facility near New Castle

The chemical company where a 2018 toxic gas leak occurred is party to two new lawsuits. 

This week Croda became the target of a federal lawsuit over its emissions of carcinogenic ethylene oxide. 

The plaintiff, New Castle County resident Catherine Baker, is seeking class-action status. She claims residents near Croda’s Altas Point facility along Route 9 are subject to increased risk of illness as a result of exposure to the chemical over decades. She is seeking monetary damages, including the cost of medical monitoring. 

This suit comes after members of Delaware’s Congressional Delegation urged the EPA to alert New Castle-area residents of the health risks of exposure to ethylene oxide from Croda, following an EPA Inspector General report flagging the issue this spring. 

“Croda Atlas Point is a proud corporate citizen of the New Castle community, focused on safe and socially responsible business practices,”  Croda spokesperson Cara Eaton wrote in an emailed statement Friday. “We have recently received the civil complaint filed in the class action, and we are reviewing it closely to determine our next steps.”

Meanwhile, the company is suing New Castle County. 

Croda filed suit against the County in the Delaware Court of Chancery earlier this month over an ordinance that restricted the height of landfills in the county last year. The ordinance also made heavy industry a special use within Heavy Industrial zones, which forces facilities like Croda’s to obtain discretionary Special Use Permits from the County’s Board of Adjustments if they want to expand. Prior to the change, heavy industrial uses had been allowed in the zone by right.

Croda is currently seeking a permit from state environmental regulators to build two new chemical tanks at its New Castle-area facility. In its suit, Croda claims the county ordinance was mistitled and failed to alert property owners of the “potentially crippling” zoning change. 

The company says the change inhibits its commitment to the long-term economic viability of the Atlas Point facility. 

“The ordinance, which was adopted without first giving full and fair notice to Delaware businesses, would delay and possibly halt our investments in Atlas Point,” Eaton said in an email. “Our action seeks  to ensure all stakeholders are involved with important issues of public policy before new zoning laws are adopted.”

Brian Cunningham, spokesperson for the New Castle County Executive’s office, said Friday the County had no comment on the pending litigation. 

The New Castle County landfill ordinance has been challenged in court before. A suit by Delaware Recyclable Products, Inc. last year ended in a settlement with the County which upheld the ordinance.

Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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