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Is A SoyChlor Plant Killing Animals, People, And Children In Jefferson Iowa?

On October 28, 2005, more than 250 residents of Jefferson, Iowa, represented by attorneys from LaMarca & Landry, PC, filed a lawsuit against West Central Cooperative in the Iowa District Court for Greene County. Parties to this lawsuit include landlords, business owners and people who work at nearby workplaces, such as MicroSoy, Electrolux and American Concrete.

Causes of action include nuisance, negligence, trespass, res ipsa loquitur, and strict liability for engaging in abnormally dangerous activity. The claims stem from numerous environmental and health changes that have occurred since West Central Cooperative’s Jefferson, Iowa Soy Chlor plant began operations on February 14, 2005. These issues stem primarily from the emission of hydrogen chloride, hydrochloric acid and particles from the Soy Chlor plant. containing any of these chemicals. Soy Chlor is a patented feed supplement for dairy cattle that combines hydrochloric acid with a soy product.

The lawsuit also alleges violation of West Central Cooperative’s IDNR operating license for that plant, as well as violations of the Hazardous Chemical Hazards Act and other applicable environmental laws and standards of care.

West Central opened the business – SoyChlor – in February. Since then, emissions from the plant have corroded metal buildings and other property within a mile of the plant, according to the lawsuit. The emissions also killed grass and other vegetation, wiped out wildlife, destroyed windows and discolored surrounding structures and pavement rock, the plaintiffs claim.

The plaintiffs say the plant exceeded legal limits for emissions of hydrogen chloride and “particulate matter,” or dust. When combined with moisture, the chemical turns into hydrochloric acid, a highly corrosive substance known to be toxic to humans and animals.

“It’s clear as day from my front window,” said Jeb Ball, owner of a used-car business west of the SoyChlor plant on the north side of Jefferson. “I have to watch it every day.”

“We believe we are now in compliance,” said Nile Ramsbottom, vice president of soybean and nutrition operations at Ralston-based West Central, but added that the company plans to increase the height of the tower. emissions from SoyChlor to 94 feet at wider. disperse emissions and dilute their presence on the ground. West Central also plans to install an additional scrubbing system, Ramsbottom said, adding that these combined steps would be more than enough to ensure the plant’s emissions are within legal limits.

The company asked the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, which oversees emissions from manufacturing plants, to authorize the changes.

Dave Phelps, who oversees the DNR section that oversees these permits, said the department is ready to accede to the company’s request, but he also expects there to be a public comment period and a public hearing on this this month. He also said recent tests showed the plant’s dust emission rate exceeded the limit allowed by state law.

George LaMarca, a Des Moines attorney representing the plaintiffs in the case, said a public hearing and the opportunity for the public to participate are good steps, but should have been taken before the plant opened. .

Ball, the owner of the used car company, said on Monday that his son, Colton Conroy, 15, had been sickened by SoyChlor emissions. A month ago, the high school student collapsed during a football game and an attending physician blamed SoyChlor Emissions for health issues that first emerged after the plant opened.

Since his collapse, the teen has been living with his maternal grandparents, south of town, and his symptoms have improved, Ball and his wife, Diane Conroy, said.

“He could run track and play football and everything a year ago, and had no issues,” Ball said.

SoyChlor uses hazardous materials, including hydrogen chloride, to make a patented product added to dairy cow feed. Hydrogen chloride is a harmful gas that can be toxic to humans and animals.

When mixed with moisture, it becomes hydrochloric acid, a highly corrosive substance capable of eating away at motor vehicle finishes, pitting glass, and killing wildlife and vegetation – all of this. is produced, according to locals, in the “fallout zone”, an area extending a mile or more in all directions from the factory. Gas, acid, and particulates contaminated with gas or acid are emitted from a chimney located atop a concrete tower at the north end of the plant.

“In Iowa, when you live in a community this size, you accept it because it’s farming,” said Jeff Ostendorf, a rancher from Jefferson who works at MicroSoy Corp., a manufacturer of ‘Soy Food Ingredients’ located across from SoyChlor. “This is different.”

Bonnie Burkhardt lives south of SoyChlor across the street. One day last week, she flipped through notebooks and three-ring binders in which she kept a meticulous record of communicating about the dispute with officials, company officials and other community members. .

A notebook details the potentially harmful effects of the toxic substances used by SoyChlor, as well as reports from doctors treating Burkhardt and others who say they have suffered health setbacks this year.

Once-vibrant children are now sleeping far too much and quickly running out of energy, families say. Colton Conroy, a 15-year-old over 6ft tall, got short of breath easily and started to lose weight, his mother said. Adults with respiratory illnesses, including Norma Gross and Ron Lawton, said they got better with the help of medical treatments, but now say they got worse.

Last year, Gross was doing well, despite his chronic lung disease. But after SoyChlor opened, she quickly lost ground, struggling to breathe. Her doctors at University Hospitals in Iowa City, where she is participating in a research project, urged her to step away, she said. But she’s a lifelong resident, and she and her husband have raised 10 children here. Gross doesn’t want to live anywhere else.

The loss of wildlife is also alarming for Gross and Burkhardt. Gone are the pigeons sitting atop tall grain storage structures north of the SoyChlor plant, they said. Gone are the blue jays, cardinals, goldfinches and other birds that perched on the many feeders in Gross’ garden. She hasn’t seen a bird for weeks.

“It was like all of a sudden there were no more birds, not even sparrows,” said Gross, who lives in a tidy trailer park less than a mile from the plant. .

Additionally, stains have surfaced on the finish of vehicles and on the siding of homes and other buildings, even on mailboxes.

Jefferson residents said the West Central insurer hired a Florida company to clean up vehicles affected by the emissions. They also said the insurer had offered checks of up to several hundred dollars to residents claiming property damage, though recipients were required to sign a form releasing the co-op and its affiliates from any further claims.

Burkhardt said she first noticed something was wrong when her skin was burning while she was working in the flower garden. Eventually, this led her inside, where she was taking a shower to stop the burning. It was last spring, after spending several months in Florida with her husband, Chuck.

At the same time, Arletta Tasler and her husband were returning from a winter in Texas. They both developed a cough that has lasted for months, they said. Sometimes, Tasler said, she coughed so hard she threw up.

Like Burkhardt, the Taslers had no idea of ​​the cause.

Burkhardt and her friend Diane Conroy spoke to neighbors and people working at nearby businesses. Within a mile of Burkhardt’s home, they found dozens of people reporting similar symptoms. They had first noticed a strange smell, like the smell of a bag of empty beer cans left in the hot sun for a day, Conroy said.

Then came the health issues. Then stains on vehicles and on buildings. Then, a film on the windows and windshields that the rubbing couldn’t remove. And some noticed that their glasses had become pitted.

The women searched the Internet for information about SoyChlor and the chemicals used.

The more they learned, the more convinced they became that the culprit was SoyChlor.

“If you get that on your siding, if it gets stung, think what that does to your lungs,” said Tasler, who lives with her 49-year-old husband, Shorty, on a farm directly east of the factory where they raised eight children.

Burkhardt, Conroy and others contacted the city’s sanitation officer, public health nurse and local newspaper editor. They started contacting the government – environmental and safety regulators, US senators from Iowa, even the White House.

Conroy and her husband, Jeb Ball, contacted their attorney in Des Moines. He referred them to George LaMarca, another Des Moines attorney. LaMarca knew how deadly hydrogen chloride could be. The gas had incapacitated some of the victims of Des Moines’ deadliest fire, which swept through the Younkers store at the Merle Hay Mall on November 5, 1978. LaMarca represented the survivors of the victims in a litigation that spanned years and, ultimately resulted in an undisclosed settlement for the plaintiffs.

He has only five words for the cooperative: “We want the factory to be closed.

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