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DNREC meeting on Croda plant leak gets heated

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After another violation by Croda’s plant in New Castle, DNREC hears from the community about the dangers this plant poses.

DNREC heard an outcry from residents of fence line communities near Croda’s Atlas Plant at a public hearing Thursday night.

The hearing was part of DNREC’s effort to evaluate what’s next after Croda was found in violation of emissions rules regarding ethylene oxide, a carcinogen the plant produces.

Several lawmakers joined the virtual hearing, including State Rep. Melissa Minor Brown (D-New Castle).

“If we can’t assure that the surrounding community members' health and safety is not at risk then we need to figure out another plan," said Minor Brown. "We either can’t keep Croda, or we need to pick up this community and move it somewhere else but something has to happen.”

Minor Brown says this issue is becoming an environmental justice issue, calling it unacceptable that Croda keeps violating regulations and getting a slap on the wrist.

Other members of the public demanded steeper penalties for violations to actively discourage repeat offenses, arguing current penalties can be shrugged off as the cost of doing business.

Sherri Evans-Stanton is the chapter director of the Delaware Sierra Club. She says the state needs come down harder on violators.

“From DNREC’s perspective, you need more severe penalties so that these businesses don’t just consider it a cost of doing business," said Evans-Stanton. "You need to make it big enough so that they don’t do it again.”

Croda paid a little over 600 thousand dollars in fines back in 2018 when the plant leaked massive amounts of ethylene oxide - a drop in bucket compared to Croda’s over 1 billion dollars in annual revenue.

Other community members, such as those working at the probation office across the street, are concerned about the effects continued leaks have on their families and co-workers.

Community members also expressed concern about their health, saying the benefits that ethylene oxide brings to manufacturing and sanitization aren’t worth the risks to community health.

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