MUSCATINE, Iowa – District Court Judge Mary E. Howes has issued a temporary injunction against Pretium Packaging LLC which requires the Muscatine plant to temporarily stop performing its fluorine process.
Judge Howes, of the 7th Judicial District of Iowa, set a hearing for permanent injunction for 1:30 p.m. Monday.
“This Court finds sufficient evidence that a serious injury could occur and that there is an imminent danger of it occurring at Pretium Packaging,” Judge Howes wrote in her temporary injunction, issued Wednesday. “The Court therefore enjoins Defendant from performing the fluorinization process until further order of the Court.”
The plant remains in operation but fired many of its employees in late June.
It makes plastic bottles for Monsanto, Dow and other agricultural-chemical companies.
A message with the company’s corporate office seeking comment on the temporary injunction was not returned by press time.
According to a petition injunction filed by the Iowa Labor Commissioner, a compliance safety and health officer, Josh Fenceroy, conducted an Iowa Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspection at the plant, at 5408 61st Ave., where he “learned that there have been repeated occurrences in which fluorine has been released into the atmosphere during the manufacturing process.”
Inhalation of fluorine is a “serious health hazard,” according to an injunction petition filed by Mitchell K. Mahan, an attorney with the Commissioner of Labor.
The injunction petition alleges that Pretium Packaging told the Division of Labor it would install monitors in the vicinity of the fluorine releases and do evacuation training, but had not done so by the time Mahan filed his petition.
“Plaintiff does not believe actions will be taken to correct the safety hazard(s) apart from this Court issuing an injunction,” Mahan’s petition states.
Mahan said by telephone from his Des Moines office Friday that because the Iowa OSHA investigation is not yet complete he is “unable to share any of the conclusions reached.”
He said he “hates to speculate” how much longer the investigation will take.