NKY residents oppose storage of dangerous chemical in their community

Villa Hills residents fighting company's request to store chemical on KY8
Updated: Jul. 6, 2020 at 11:06 PM EDT
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VILLA HILLS, Ky. (FOX19) - A chemical storage company wants to begin storing a potentially dangerous synthetic chemical in a Northern Kentucky community, but some residents are doing everything they can to prevent that from happening.

TransMontaigne sits along River Road in Villa Hills, Ky. The company’s website claims they store biodiesel and other products. According to a report from our media partners at the Enquirer, they now want to store styrene there too.

Styrene, the NIH says, is a chemical used to make latex, synthetic rubber and polystyrene resins.

In May, a styrene leak in India killed at least 11 people there, according to a BBC report.

In 2005, a railcar leaked styrene in Cincinnati, forcing neighborhoods to evacuate, the Enquirer reports. The city settled a case arising from that leak in 2007.

The CDC says the human health effects from exposure to low environmental levels of styrene are unknown. But according to the NIH, workers exposed to large amounts of styrene can develop irritation of the eyes and breathing passages, and workers exposed to styrene over long periods of time have suffered injuries to their nervous systems.

The NIH hazards summary on styrene reads: “Acute (short-term) exposure to styrene in humans results in mucous membrane and eye irritation, and gastrointestinal effects. Chronic (long-term) exposure to styrene in humans results in effects on the central nervous system (CNS), such as headache, fatigue, weakness, and depression, CSN dysfunction, hearing loss, and peripheral neuropathy.”

The summary also says several epidemiological studies suggest there may be an association between styrene exposure and an increased risk of leukemia and lymphoma, though the evidence is inconclusive.

“Who in the world could possibly think this is a good idea?” Resident Bryan Wegener wondered Monday night.

TransMontaigne needs approval from Villa Hills’s Board of Adjustments to begin storing styrene in its facility. A public hearing was scheduled for Tuesday, according to the city’s website, but it has since been postponed.

Resident Blake and Chandler Smith say they love where they live, but the thought of having a potentially hazardous chemical stored right down the street alarms them.

Every week, the Smiths and other concerned citizens meet. The group says they have hired a lawyer to fight the city’s approval.

“We have organized. We’ve assigned different tasks in different areas,” Chandler said. “We have really done our research, and it’s kind of a no-brainer, this shouldn’t be happening in a residential area.

“Whether it’s Mitch McConnell or our local mayor, if they are letting this happen on their watch. What’s their job if not to protect their citizens?”

The Smiths have started a petition that as of this writing has more than 3,700 signatures. The goal is to get 5,000.

“This is a place we want to spend the rest of our lives in,” Chandler explained. “We have five young kids, 8 (years) to 6 months, and it’s just really important this is a safe place for everyone.”

Wegener says the storage facility is just a few hundred feet away from where he lives.

“So if somebody allows this to happen, I have to leave, because I am not going to be subject to all kinds of health issues.”

“It just seems like there is a better place to do this,” Smith said. “It seems inconsiderate to the people here in Villa Hills and Northern Kentucky, and even to the people right across the river in Ohio.”

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