Ponca City sues Houston company over pollution

Wednesday, January 26th 2005, 5:40 am
By: News On 6

PONCA CITY, Okla. (AP) -- Complaints from residents prompted city commissioners here to hire attorneys to sue a Houston-based company over the black dust emitted by its local plant, officials said.

City commissioners met Monday to authorize the legal action, Mayor Dick Stone said.

"It's time to stop this mess on Ponca City," Stone said Tuesday.

The lawsuit filed by Boettcher, Ryan, Martin and Bisher seeks to stop pollution and obtain compensation for damages, Stone said.

Results from lab tests commissioned by the city show the shape and chemical makeup of dust found around the city is carbon black, City Attorney Kevin Murphy said.

Residents living near the plant south of the city have complained of the emissions for years, but the city started receiving more complaints from inside city limits.

Continental Carbon spokesman Blake Lewis said the company was surprised by the lawsuit.

"We've demonstrated our willingness to move forward," Lewis said.

Stone said the company stated there was no proof the pollution came from Continental Carbon, and that the company tried to blame other local industries.

Continental Carbon also has sent people to clean the fountain and statues at city hall almost daily for the last few weeks, Stone said.

Lewis said the company cleaned dust to help the community even though company officials didn't know if it came from the plant.

Continental Carbon has agreed to upgrade the plant with $1.6 million in improvements to reduce emissions. Stone said that won't be enough to take care of all the plant's problems.

Continental Carbon makes a tire component called carbon black, which is used mainly as a reinforcing agent in rubber products such as tires, tubes, conveyor belts and cables. It's also used as a black pigment in inks.

The company paid $5,000 associated with a Dec. 8 consent order and notice of violation from the state Department of Environmental Quality for problems with its Ponca City plant, DEQ spokeswoman Monty Elder said.

As part of the order, the company also agreed to the $1.6 million in upgrades.

The company was sued in federal court by The Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers International Union, the Ponca Tribe and a handful of local landowners.

After a judge dismissed much of the lawsuit in September, plaintiffs were allowed to file an amended complaint Dec. 1.