Ohio school district sues over air pollution

ADDYSTON, Ohio (AP) - A plastics plant continues to release chemicals in the air that exceed government safety standards, a school district said in a lawsuit filed in state court.

The lawsuit is the latest move by the Three Rivers School District, which closed an elementary school across the street from the plant in 2005. The plant, about 20 miles west of Cincinnati, had been cited with several violations, including failing to fix leaks and more than 30 instances of emitting hazardous air pollutants over legal limits.

In the lawsuit, the district said it has been unable to sell the shuttered school building and is burdened by crowded classrooms. Students who attended the school next to the plant were shifted to two other elementary schools, where classrooms are doubled up and some courses are taught in cafeterias or storage areas, according to the lawsuit, which seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

Terri Fitzpatrick, a spokesperson for plastics maker Lanxess Corp., which owned the plant from 2004 to 2007, said the company spent millions of dollars to improve environmental controls. The plant continues to operate under a joint agreement between Lanxess and Ineos Group. "Lanxess does not believe that emissions from the facility endangered the health, safety or welfare of the public," Fitzpatrick said.

In July, the company agreed to pay $3.1 million in penalties to resolve violations of several environmental laws, according to a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. School district officials oppose the settlement.

Stanley Chesley and Louise Roselle, attorneys who represent the district, said emissions from the plant continue to exceed EPA standards for safety. The lawsuit refers to high levels of butadiene, a known human carcinogen, and acrylonitrile, a probable carcinogen, in air around the school.

In 2005, the Ohio EPA concluded that the cancer risk for residents near the plant was 50 times greater than normal. Lanxess disputed the findings.

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