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Westwego City Council denies permits for chemical company production and storage

February 10, 2020 / Meghan Holmes

Westwego city council unexpectedly voted to deny any permits to Wanhua Chemical, a Chinese company hoping to produce and store chemicals for plastics production along the Mississippi River in south Louisiana. The vote, at a meeting intended as solely a question and answer session, came just days before the release of a new report on benzene emissions from refineries, with EPA data showing levels of fenceline benzene emissions at Chalmette Refinery at more than three times the level deemed safe for public health. Benzene is a component in the production of MDI, methylene diphenyl diisocyanate, the chemical Wanhua hoped to store and distill in Westwego. It’s also released as part of the oil refining process. Long-term exposure to benzene has been shown to increase the risk of cancer, and short-term exposure can weaken immune systems, suppressing white blood cell formation.