Citizen pressure pays off
Changes made at Cincinnati Specialties

Cincinnati Specialties, Inc. in St. Bernard (a small town surrounded by Cincinnati) has a long history of odor complaints, accidental chlorine and toxic air releases. Neighbors in the surrounding communities and Ohio Citizen Action formed the Campaign for Safer Neighborhoods to demand changes at Cincinnati Specialties.

Over 18,000 citizens from the Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky region wrote to the president of Cincinnati Specialties. Here's what we won:

Toxic air releases and noxious odors

North Avondale, Bond Hill, Winton Place, Elmwood Place and others have been plagued with the "flavorings" smells and toxic air releases from Cincinnati Specialties for years. Campaign members have been working with the City of Cincinnati's odor canister program for the past year to detect odors in the neighborhoods, and flooding the county odor hotline with complaint calls when odors have been detected.

Cincinnati Specialties started changing the packaging of liquid products and is scheduled for completion in the second quarter of 2000. The other, directed at solids handling, was completed in the first quarter of 2000. The two changes are expected to reduce fugitive odor emissions.

Cincinnati Specialties has also agreed to install a 24-hour odor hotline at their facility.

Chlorine accidents

Cincinnati Specialties accidentally released chlorine 17 times from 1988 to 1999. An accident in 1992 was large enough to close some city streets and send neighboring workers home.

Campaign for Safer Neighborhoods members researched the chlorine enclosure building Clorox in Cleveland had built in the 1980's. Coalition members and Cincinnati Specialties management toured the Clorox plant.

Cincinnati Specialties will build by the end of the year an on-site chlorine enclosure building to prevent future accidental chlorine releases from reaching their workers and the community. The building will enclose chlorine tank cars, and will have an air scrubber, additional automatic shut-off valves and sensors to reduce the risk of chlorine leaks.

Releases to municipal sewers and the environment

Cincinnati Specialties releases two million pounds of methanol waste to municipal sewers each year and 130,000 pounds of toxic chemicals to the air. In addition, Cincinnati Specialties has had many sewer violations of their permits during this time. The company has applied for an air permit for 148 tons per year of nitrogen oxide releases, 44 tons per year of organic compound releases and 18 tons per year of methanol releases. Campaign members worked with both company officials and the Metropolitian Sewer District to force changes at the facility.

Cincinnati Specialties upgraded the methanol recovery unit at the facility to reduce the release of methanol waste to municipal sewers. Cincinnati Specialties is also working to substitute methanol with a less toxic chemical in two of five processes.

Lack of communication with local residents

Cincinnati Specialties' management now meets monthly with a community advisory group consisting of neighbors, ECO: Environmental Community Organization and Ohio Citizen Action. Meetings occur on the fourth Thursday of the month; we invite you to attend.

The company agreed to pay for an independent technical consultant, chosen by community members, to assist in finding additonal ways to reduce noxious odors and toxic air releases.