Rohm and Haas campaign background

Morton International/Rohm and Haas produces specialty chemicals for the PVC plastics industry in Reading, a suburb of Cincinnati. Neighbors have complained about odors coming from the plant, and the plant has routinely polluted the air with tens of thousands of pounds of chemicals that can cause cancer and other health problems.

Ohio Citizen Action members wrote a total of 9,984 letters to plant manager Bruce Beiser during the course of the campaign, from February 2000 to April 2001. We organized the neighbors to meet with plant management, and traveled to Philadelphia to bring corporate headquarters into the negotiations.

We won the good neighbor campaign in April 2001, when the company agreed to make changes in four areas: toxics, odors, truck parking and emergency response. The plant expects a 90% or more reduction in the release of chloromethane, a dangerous chemical which they had been releasing at the rate of 88,000 pounds a year. Rohm and Haas will be spending over $2 million to install a cryogenic chiller and take other steps to remedy these longstanding problems.

The company and neighbors now have an ongoing commitment to work together to see that all of the changes are implemented. The steps being taken by the plant go far beyond any legal requirements, and are a testament to the strength of the "good neighbor" campaign approach. The turning point in the campaign came when leaders at the corporate headquarters in Philadelphia got involved.

The problem What we won
Toxic air releases
In 1999, the Reading Morton International/Rohm and Haas plant released 78,800 pounds of chloromethane into the air. Exposure to chloromethane can cause severe neurological effects, and may cause cancer.
Morton International/Rohm and Haas has agreed to cut air releases of chloromethane as close to zero as possible. The company will install a 'cryogenic cooler' to capture chloromethane air releases more effectively. This is expected to cut air releases by at least 90%, although some estimates are as high as 99%. This equipment is scheduled to be completed and on-line by the end of 2001.
Noxious odors
Neighbors have repeatedly made ocmplaints to the plant and the local air agency about the dead fish and rotten egg smells that come from processes at Morton International/Rohm & Haas.
Morton International/Rohm and Haas equipment operators will fill out 'odor sheets' for each shift on the equipment they run. Operators are asked to identify changes to eliminate the odors on the processes they run. the engineers in charge assess these proposed changes. For example, one operator noted that the scrubber in one building is too small, and that more processes should be tied into the scrubber. Neighbor and citizen complaints will be tracked with equipment operators assessments. The company has begun identifying all sources that can cause odors.
After hours diesel truck parking
Truck shipments at Morton Internationsl/Rohm and Haas are allowed between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. However, many diesel trucks park overnight with their engines running. This has caused problems for neighbors due to the noise, odors, and cancer-causing diesel fumes that come from these trucks.
After campaign members and neighbors made a presentation at Reading City Council, the City said it would begin cracking down on after-hours diesel truck parking on residential streets. Part of the area the trucks are idling is owned by Morton International/Rohm and Haas. The company has notified all its customers and suppliers that trucks are not allowed inside or outside the gate before 7 a.m. At the urging of neighbors, the company is working to find other effective ways to stop trucks from idling outside the company fence. Neighbors and Morton International/Rohm and Haas will continue to keep truck logs to show how well this problem is being addressed.
Emergency response notification
Neighbors have no way of knowing about emergency situations at Morton International/Rohm & Haas, or what to do in such emergencies. The City of Reading does not have any siren notification.
The company has agreed to work with the Community Work group to install emergency response equipment. Neighbors are currently researching different types of equipment used in other neighborhoods with industrial neighbors.