Fluoride Action Network

Sierra Club Stands By Coronet Ad

Source: Sierra Club | March 25th, 2004 | Contact: Frank Jackalone of the Sierra Club, 727-824-8813 or 727-804-1317 (cell)
Industry type: Phosphate Industry

TAMPA, Fla., March 25 /U.S. Newswire/ — Following is a statement by Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope regarding a Florida ad on Coronet Industries and Bush Administration’s Superfund policy:

The Sierra Club’s current television ad concerning Coronet Industries’ role in polluting communities and threatening public health in the Tampa Bay area has been falsely characterized as misleading by Coronet Industries and the Republican National Committee.

Fortunately, Coronet’s attempts to intimidate television stations into pulling the ad have failed. Four of five stations in the Tampa area committed to keeping our ad on the air, and the fifth is reconsidering its decision to pull the ad in the face of extensive documentation.

Our ad is not misleading. The Sierra Club is committed to the truth in our environmental campaigns, and we believe the public deserves to know about Coronet Industries’ responsibility for pollution and health problems in Plant City, as well as the Bush administration’s policy of allowing toxic waste clean-ups of orphaned Superfund sites to become burdens on taxpayers and communities.

Based on our own investigation to date, we are convinced that the interests of the truth are best served by continuing to run this ad. We invite anyone who requires more evidence to talk to the 732 residents of Hillsborough County who filed sued against Coronet last week because of the risk to their health created by the company’s pollution. (Franco vs. Coronet Industries, March 16, 2004, Circuit Court of the 13th Judicial Circuit, Case #04- CA-OO2576, Division R).

The attached June 18, 2003 Health Report from the Florida Department of Health documents, among other important facts, that:

— Between December 1997 and April 1998 the facility reported four discharges into English Creek totaling approximately 150 million gallons of water contaminated with arsenic between 69 and 99 ppb. Another single, documented discharge in September 2001 totaled 178 million gallons of “toxic water.”

— Hillsborough County Health Department has detected elevated levels of fluoride and arsenic in nearby private drinking water wells.

— An April 2002 Contamination Assessment Report (CAR) cited significant on-site contamination by arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead fluoride and pH(1-2) most likely resulting from the “past practice of using unlined or poorly lined recirculation trenches in the hydrogen fluoride (HF) recovery area,” and that “the widespread contamination within the HF recover area is more consistent with releases from more than one area.”

— That monitoring of shallow groundwater on the site revealed levels of arsenic contamination 600 times the allowable level.

–That monitoring of deep-groundwater off-site showed arsenic levels more than three times the allowable levels.

— USA EPA Region IV had identified the Coronet facility as one of only five operations in its region where the cancer risk to the public was more than 10 times the acceptable level.

Other sources also confirm the validity of statements we made in our ad:

— In 2001 federal officials warned the state that Coronet Industries was one of the most hazardous facilities in the southeast. Coronet knew of the study, but local residents were not informed.

— On September 24, 2003, DEP Secretary David Struhs stated that he was so concerned that Coronet represented a “systematic problem” that he launched an investigation of his own agency’s handling of the facility.

— In November of 2003 Florida launched a series of on-site inspections of the facility on the basis of what the Tampa Tribune described as “widespread complaints about serious illness among residents living near the plant.”

— Also in November, Florida estimated that if Coronet declared bankruptcy and walked away from the site the bill to the state could be about $45 million.

— On January 30 a spokesman for Coronet told the Tampa Tribune that the company might go bankrupt, which under current Bush Administration policies would leave taxpayers responsible for the clean-up bill.

In a March 23 letter asking us to withdraw the ad, Coronet did not deny or refute any of these facts or any of the claims in the ad. Instead, the company obfuscated the issues. For example, it cited a statement that contamination levels in local wells do not “represent an imminent health threat.” Surely Coronet is aware that saying that drinking water is not an IMMINENT health threat is a far lower level of protection than saying it is safe. The levels of contaminants found and reported in wells are, quite simply, not safe for long term human ingestion.

Coronet seems to take comfort in the fact that the entire census tract surrounding the plant does not appear to have elevated levels of cancer; this, of course, is of no comfort to the much smaller community living much nearer to Coronet Industries.

There is one point on which Coronet and the Sierra Club agree. Our ad shows a photograph of the Coronet plant from the outside. The illustrations of typical industrial facilities which follow, the drums and pipes, are not on the Coronet property, since Coronet does not allow photographers on its properties and we were therefore unable to locate actual footage taken inside the plant. We would be delighted in the future to have the opportunity to visit the plant and take such footage for the benefit of the public.