Kaiser and Noranda to be Sued over Alleged Mercury Poisoning at Plant in Louisiana

Aluminium producers Noranda Aluminum and Kaiser Aluminum have been advised by an environmental advocacy group that they would be named presently as defendants in a federal lawsuit for allegedly releasing harmful levels of mercury form its Gramercy, Louisiana plant.

The Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN) claims that the plant, initially opened in 1959 by Kaiser, operated jointly by Kaiser and Noranda after 2004, and soley by Noranda since 2009, has violated state and federal environmental laws by releasing mercury into the Blind River for several years. LEAN further alleges that state officials have warned locals off consuming fish caught in the river due to mercury contamination.

“Noranda admits it and prior owner Kaiser have likely been releasing mercury into the air, without a permit, for nearly six decades,” said Marylee Orr, LEAN’s executive director. “Yet the company has utterly failed to take any concrete steps to contain, reduce or clean up the mess it has created here in Louisiana. As a result, there is a significant risk to human health, the environment and our food chain.”

John Parker, Noranda spokesman, stated in response that the charges are “misplaced and unwarranted,” and that the mercury released by the plant have been well below dangerous levels.

“We have worked constructively with LDEQ on this matter from the time in March 2014 that we identified trace amounts of elemental mercury within facility process equipment at our refinery and self-reported those findings,” said Parker. “Consistent with the work plan we established with the LDEQ, we have focused on accurately quantifying potential mercury air emissions at our facility for the purpose of modifying our existing air permit to address those emissions.

“Based on the sampling and other activities we have conducted to date, as well the LDEQ’s own air monitoring in the area, we are not aware of any potential exceedences of applicable ambient air quality standards,” he concluded.

Per Federal law, LEAN is required to advise potential defendants ninety days prior to filing suit. The group may be awarded attorney’s fees and other expenses if it prevails in court.

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