Why was action needed?
In the spring of 1996, the Jefferson County Health Department received a grant to conduct a study to determine the health needs and concerns of the residents of western Jefferson County. This study was called the West County Community Involvement Project (WCCIP). Confidential written environmental health surveys were collected and public meetings were held to hear input from citizens. The result of the WCIPP was a list of identified concerns and recommendations, which was presented to Louisville and Jefferson County elected officials on September 3, 1996.
Participants of the WCCIP continued to meet after the study was completed and eventually formed the WCCIP Task Force to “move towards resolving the identified environmental and environmental health problems in order to improve environmental health in the neighborhoods that comprise the West County area.”
The monitoring station at the Louisville Police Firearms Training Center was one of 12 monitoring sites for the WLATS.
At the same time, the University of Louisville was awarded an EPA Environmental Justice grant. With over $300,000 in funding, the University of Louisville and the WCCIP Task Force joined forces to begin addressing the identified concerns. The Task Force members agreed that the first “action item” should be a comprehensive air monitoring project in the Rubbertown area. Additional funding was appropriated by the Kentucky Legislature over the years with the help of State Senator Gerald Neal. The WCCIP Task Force was later renamed the West Jefferson County Community Task Force (WJCCTF). This initial air monitoring project became known as the West Louisville Air Toxics Study (WLATS).
In September 2002, the EPA Region 4 released a county-by-county Air Toxics Relative Risk Screening Analysis that identified Jefferson County as having the highest potential adverse impact of toxics of the 736 counties in the eight southeast states.
In October 2003, the final results from the WLATS identified seventeen chemicals that were monitored at levels representing a cancer risk of greater than 1 in one million. A cancer risk represents the number of excess cancer cases that would be expected to develop if one million people were exposed a specific concentration of a carcinogen for a lifetime. One additional chemical was monitored at an unsafe level considering noncancer effects. The cumulative monitored cancer risk at each of the twelve sites exceeded 100 in one million; the highest monitored cancer risk was 841 in one million.
Following the release of the preliminary results of the WLATS that identified 1,3-butadiene as the chemical with the highest monitored cancer risk, Mayor Jerry Abramson called upon the three Rubbertown industrial emitters of 1,3-butadiene to make voluntary reductions of those emissions. A fourth Rubbertown industry, emitting chloroprene, was later called upon to make voluntary reductions of chloroprene. One year later, agreements were reached with the four companies for specific reductions and adopted by the Air Pollution Control Board as enforceable orders.
Implementation of these agreements has caused reductions of 1,3-butadiene and chloroprene as well as several other chemicals monitored in the WLATS at high cancer risk levels. Most notably, the company responsible for the largest emission of 1,3-butadiene replaced its major control device, a flare, with a different technology, a thermal oxidizer, capable of significantly reducing these emissions. Additionally, recognition of the toxics problems identified by the WLATS likely caused other industrial companies to review their emissions of these chemicals and consider plans to reduce these emissions.
However, while improving the air quality in the vicinity of the industrial companies, these voluntary actions left many issues to be addressed, including:
- the need for a systematic review of the toxic chemicals identified as unacceptable by the WLATS
- whether the resulting cancer or noncancer risks would be considered acceptable
- whether there were other locations in Louisville or other chemicals emitted with unacceptable risks
- the toxic chemical emissions of other source sectors
Clearly, all sources of toxic emissions and all areas of Jefferson County had not, in the past, been comprehensively assessed and addressed, nor were they, at that time, being comprehensively assessed and addressed by federal, state, or local programs.
Left to right, Health Dept. Director Dr. Adewale Troutman, Community Development Cabinet Secretary Bruce Traughber, Air Pollution Control District Director Art Williams and Metro Mayor Jerry Abramson at the 9/9/2004 STAR press conference
Under the directive of both Mayor Jerry Abramson and the Louisville Metro Air Pollution Control Board, the District developed the concepts for a comprehensive air toxics program and released draft regulations for its implementation in September 2004. In June 2005, the Board unanimously approved the package of regulations known as the Strategic Toxic Air Reduction (STAR) Program.
The District is currently implementing the STAR regulations to achieve compliance by the December 31, 2012 deadline.
Documents and Links related to the History of the STAR Program
For additional information or questions, please contact APCD at (502) 574-6000.