Court may order relocation of school near LaPlace chemical plant, attorney says

By Carrie Bradon | Dec 2, 2018

A parent of a student at Fifth Ward Elementary School in Reserve is suing the St. John the Baptist School Board, alleging that their child's safety is in danger due to the proximity of the school to the LaPlace chemical plant owned by Denka Performance Elastomer, an article posted on said.

The lawsuit, filed at Louisiana’s 40th Judicial District Court, demands that Fifth Ward students be relocated to a site away from the plant and the risk of exposure to chloroprene, a “likely carcinogen."  

The chemical plant is the only one in the U.S. with emissions of chloroprene, which the Environmental Protection Agency has stated may be carcinogenic, but the owner of the plant, Denka, claims that the chemical is not as dangerous as it has been made out to be, the article said.

Chloroprene is emitted into the air by the plant during production of a substance used in synthetic rubber.

Peter Vujin, a Miami-based attorney, recently spoke with the Louisiana Record about the commented the situation, the danger it may pose to students and options to remedy it. 

"Chloroprene is a DuPont product. So the question is why did the parents not sue the producer but decided to sue the school, presumably because the parents want this to stop," Vujin said. "But it's questionable whether the school district has the money to relocate the whole school. In addition, the operator of the plant tried to remedy this situation, but not enough, as it freely admits lowering the concentration of their product would put (it) out of business."

"It's not entirely clear what, precisely, the court could order the school to do, short of relocating, but that, too, may be out of economic reach," Vujin said. "In which case, the court could order damages, or money to be paid, which is not an adequate resolution here, because the children would still continue to be exposed to this matter every single day."

While it is unclear what may happen, Vujin sees one more option that may play out. 

"Since the factory is the only production (site) of chloroprene in the United States, the court may lean toward protecting business interests and order the school to relocate," Vujin said. 

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