Tell WV DEP to Protect Communities from Dangerous Ethylene Oxide Pollution

On Monday, January 9, the WV DEP Division of Air Quality (DAQ) held a public meeting to provide information and answer questions on the renewal of Union Carbide’s operating permit for its Distribution System for Ethylene Oxide, located in Dunbar, WV. At the meeting, the agency provided an overview of what it has done in response to EPA’s 2018 National Air Toxics Assessment to better determine the concentration of ethylene oxide (EtO) in the air around the facilities where it is used, evaluate health risks and reduce emissions in areas near the facilities. As part of these efforts, WV DEP announced that DAQ and Union Carbide have agreed in principle to a collaborative agreement, which includes enforceable site-specific commitments that go above and beyond existing rules and regulations and are intended to respond to community concern as they relate to EtO emissions from the facility.   

On Tuesday evening, the agency held a virtual public hearing to receive official comments on the Union Carbide permit renewal. Several speakers at the hearing commended WV DEP for their public outreach efforts and lauded news of the collaborative agreement, but also called on the agency to do more to protect the surrounding communities from harmful EtO pollution. Speaker after speaker criticized the piecemeal nature of the permitting process and said that cumulative impact of all emissions should be considered in assessing community risk. 

(See Institute residents, safety advocates cite pollution fatigue as DEP pushes Union Carbide permit renewal, by Mike Tony for the Charleston Gazette-Mail.)

Written comments on the Union Carbide permit renewal will be accepted until 5pm on Friday, January 20. Comments may be submitted via email to with “Union Carbide Corporation Title V comments” in the subject line.

Tell WV DEP to protect communities from dangerous EtO pollution. Take this action because you are affected or as a show of solidarity with the affected communities.

Background from People Concerned About Chemical Safety:

  • Ethylene oxide (EtO) is a cancer-causing chemical that has also been shown to have reproductive effects. It is primarily used to make other chemicals and has been used in the Kanawha Valley since the 1920s. Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) realized that EtO is much more cancer-causing than they previously realized.
  • The Union Carbide facility in Institute, WV is currently requesting that the DEP renew their air permit (called the Title V permit) that allows them to emit EtO into the air. Recent air samples of the chemical taken by the DEP at the fenceline of the Institute and South Charleston Carbide facilities confirm that the amounts of EtO being emitted from these facilities are much higher than what the EPA thinks is an acceptable cancer risk, but they are permitted to emit even more.
  • Emissions of EtO, and other chemicals from this plant and others nearby, have impacted communities in the region for decades, many of which are low-income communities and communities of color. The majority-African American community in Institute faces large negative impacts from ethylene oxide and other toxic air pollution from multiple sources in the Kanawha Valley.

This is an air quality, public health, environmental justice issue. Take action today! 

Use the fact sheet below provided by Dr. Maya Nye and People Concerned About Chemical Safety to help inform your comments.The WV DEP has more information on the permit renewal here. For more background on this issue, watch coverage from WSAZ here and here or read this article from Mountain State Spotlight.

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