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Union Carbide is seeking to renew an air quality permit for its Institute plant, which emits a flammable gas that’s a known carcinogen.
Ethylene oxide is a colorless, flammable gas with a sweet odor. It’s used to make antifreeze, as well as pesticides and sterilizing agents.
Union Carbide transfers ethylene oxide from railroad tank cars to storage tanks in Institute, where it is then distributed to facilities in Institute and South Charleston.
Despite a flaring system to control fugitive emissions, some of the gas does escape.
According to Union Carbide’s permit application with the Department of Environmental Protection, the Institute facility emits 400 pounds of ethylene oxide per year, with the potential to emit as much as three tons.
DEP and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are monitoring ethylene oxide levels in the air in the Kanawha Valley. They are supposed to release a report by the end of this year.
The public can comment on Union Carbide’s permit application through Nov. 14. The permit number is R30-03900005-2022.