Ethanol plant health study crucial

By Wayne Roth-Nelson: Guest columnist

Regarding the proposed ethanol plant west of Clovis:

The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) seems to have ignored any advice available from environmental health scientists who should represent the health concerns of the affected community.

Government environmental agencies work with two very different sets of numbers. One set goes with rules for issuing a permit; the other is concerned with community health risks. Nowhere in the reporting on this air quality permit have I seen any use of the health numbers.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lists both regulatory numbers and health numbers for Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs) associated with ethanol plants. HAPs such as acetaldehyde and formaldehyde are cancer-causing. These and many others are highly toxic to the human respiratory system, especially to infants and children, the sick, and the elderly.

With prevailing winds blowing from the southwest, these toxicants will spread into a Clovis neighborhood of ethnic minorities at the west city limits — two miles west of downtown, a mile west of Potter Park.

Financially, politically and medically disadvantaged residents are at greater risk of acquiring or worsening respiratory diseases —aggravated asthma, acute bronchitis, chemical pneumonitis, and emphysema, among others.

Ethanol plants throughout the Corn Belt are being sited in rural areas where rail and utility access can be arranged and health impacts are very minimized. Clovis should not be the only place in the U.S. where a new ethanol plant with high-level toxic emissions is positioned at the edge of a city.

Clovis citizens should request the NMED for a study of health risks to be done before finally approving this dangerous plant location. Included should be all existing as well as added levels of HAP exposure within the affected community from the new plant and from its heavy diesel truck and train traffic.

Wayne Roth-Nelson is an environmental health scientist from Longmont, Colo. He serves as consultant to law firms representing individual plaintiffs as well as industry defendants in toxic tort litigation. Contact him at: