I admire the mission
statement for the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources
and the Board of Minerals and Environment acknowledging their goal to protect
our public health and the environment. By approving an air permit for the
Hyperion Energy Center, they ignore this mission.
Hyperion would discharge many tons of toxic air pollutants that the
Environmental Protection Agency designates as hazardous air pollutants. These
are substances such as ethyl benzene, butadiene and formaldehyde that are known
or suspected to cause cancer or other serious health problems. We will be
exposed to these cancer-causing chemicals so there can be economic development
in the area.
There has been plenty of research on single agent toxicity of many of these
pollutants. Specifically, volatile organic acids including benzene will be
present in quantities of at least 1.4 tons per day over the Elk Point and area
air space. Studies of this single agent demonstrate that this chemical will
cause respiratory difficulties, especially in children and the elderly. This
includes wheezing, bronchitis and asthma. Benzene is known to be toxic to the
DNA, leading to blood cell cancers such as childhood leukemia.
The real concern that now is being
explored by researchers is the concept of Multipollutant Science. This
"one atmosphere" approach takes into account that humans and
ecosystems are exposed to many air pollutants simultaneously, not just one
agent at a time. This science will help explain what pollutants together will
do versus a single toxic effect.
Unfortunately, Hyperion and the minerals board will not be involved in any
Multipollutant Science research, and the oil refinery project will force
residents in Union, Clay and other counties to breathe a cocktail of
contamination. But residents will not know much about what pollutants they will
be exposed to because the air permit does not provide sufficient information.
The Board of Minerals and Environment will not require Hyperion to provide
facts about its pollutants in an Environmental Impact Study.
The hazardous air pollutant I most
fear, largely because of its relationship with other toxins, is particulate
matter. Particulate matter is just one of the numerous toxins that will be
emitted in quantities large and strong enough to adversely affect our health.
The mixture of solid microscopic particles and liquid droplets comes in a
variety of sizes and is composed of many materials and chemicals. These
particles are measured in microns, with bigger ones at 10 microns and smaller
ones at 2.5 microns or less.
The Hyperion air permit allows the refinery to spew more than 6 tons of
particulate matter every day. These fine particles, which are odorless and
one-tenth the size of the width of a human hair, will settle into our lungs
causing inflammation and irritation. We will not be able to cough this out. We
will have to live with this day after day. The fine particles approved in the
permit will be absorbed through our lung air sacs and into blood capillaries
where disease occurs. Long-term exposure to particulate matter results in
decreased lung function, asthma, chronic bronchitis, heart attacks, heart
palpitations and premature death. There is evidence now that particulate matter
exposure also increases stroke risk.
Year after year, this pollution process will continue because the BME thought
it was safe for our health. Unfortunately, there is not a single medically
trained representative on this board.
As a physician who will care for
patients in southeastern South Dakota exposed to this dangerous pollution, I feel
this urgent warning is necessary.
In the long run, Hyperion will ruin our health, and any economic gains will be
lost to the medical consequences. The BME should not ignore these facts. I
suspect it would not want this mixture of chemicals pouring into the air that
its members' own children and grandchildren breathe. The BME and South Dakota
leaders should do the right thing. They should muster personal courage in the
face of political pressure. They should reject the Hyperion air permit and
protect our public health and environment.