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Formosa Toxic Waste Spill and Plastic Pollution in Lavaca Bay, Texas, United States

Formosa Plastics Group is a repeat offender of environmental violations that has illegally dumped waste, violated health and safety codes for workers and plant infrastructure, over 30 years.


Formosa Toxic Waste Spill and Plastic Pollution in Lavaca Bay, Texas. - Description.  Lavaca Bay, located in Calhoun County, Texas, is an important bay ecosystem formerly rich with biodiversity but now extremely contaminated with various types of pollution. The bay is also home to one of the largest Superfund sites in the United States (under CERCLA) because of its heavy mercury contamination from nearby aluminum production plant Alcoa [6]. Consequently, Calhoun County was ranked as the nation’s number one spot for toxic waste disposal in 1989 [7]. At this time, the fish and shrimp populations were drastically declining, which devastated the local population of small-scale shrimpers and fishermen whom greatly depended on the bay for their livelihoods [4]. Moreover, Formosa Plastics Corporation (FPC), a Taiwanese company, also had just built a petrochemical plant manufacturing PVC and other plastics in Point Comfort, a small town on the shores of the bay [8, 9]. FPC is infamous for its long and excessive history of  environmental and human rights violations and is in the 90% percentile of the world’s top polluting companies [9, 10]. Yet Formosa Plastics insisted the plant was "the jewel of the Texas Gulf Coast," and would put out "zero toxic emissions" into the community. The economic development crowd was overjoyed, and Texas government at all levels scrambled to offer tax reductions to this new source of money [9].

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Formosa Toxic Waste Spill and Plastic Pollution in Lavaca Bay, Texas, United States
Country:United States of America
State or province:Texas
Location of conflict:Point Comfort
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Industrial and Utilities conflicts
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Chemical industries
Other industries
Specific commodities:Chemical products
Project Details and Actors
Project details

FPC’s Point Comfort site consists of sixteen production units and a variety of support facilities at its nearly 1012-hectare petrochemical complex. It began as a PVC plant in the 1980s with a $900 million investment but expanded in 1994 to produce more types of petrochemicals with an additional investment of $1.5 billion. It also has a new wastewater treatment facility following the plastic dumping scandal. FPC currently employs 1,910 full-time workers and 795 contractors [8].

Project area:1012
Level of Investment for the conflictive project2,400,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:21,381
Start of the conflict:28/06/1989
End of the conflict:05/12/2019
Company names or state enterprises:Formosa Plastics Group/Formosa Plastics Corporation (FPG/FPC) from Taiwan
Relevant government actors:Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Texas Water Commission, Coast Guard,
Environmental Protection Agency, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:-Texas A&M University (
-Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (
-Bioneers ( )
-Break Free From Plastic (
-San Antonio Bay Estuarine Waterkeepers
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Industrial workers
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Local scientists/professionals
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Hunger strikes and self immolation
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Fires, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Potential: Food insecurity (crop damage), Genetic contamination, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Occupational disease and accidents
Potential: Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Deaths
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Criminalization of activists
Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Violent targeting of activists
Application of existing regulations
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:The plant still operates today as the largest Formosa plant in the United States, but it has now agreed to stop dumping illegal wastes and has been heavily fined in contribution to the cleanup necessary to fix the damaged bay.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

[14] Fire at Formosa Plastics Corporation: Evaluating Process Hazards
[click to view]

Formosa Plastics Corporation, U.S.A. Announces Settlement Arising from Pellet Discharge Lawsuit
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[7] Sustaining the Earth Chapter 14
[click to view]

Documentary: Texas Gold
[click to view]

P Godfrey. Diane Wilson vs. Union Carbide: Ecofeminism and the Elitist Charge of “Essentialism”. Capitalism Nature Socialism. Volume 16, 2005 - Issue 4.
[click to view]

Diane Wilson vs. Union Carbide: Ecofeminism and the Elitist Charge of “Essentialism”
[click to view]

[1] Formosa Plastics History
[click to view]

[3] Texas Environmental Activist Diane Wilson Wins $50 Million Lawsuit
[click to view]

[4] Passion into Action: Diane Wilson
[click to view]

[8] Formosa Plastics: Our Operations
[click to view]

[9] Diane Wilson: Diatribe on Formosa Plastics
[click to view]

[10] Scorecard: Toxic Chemical Releases
[click to view]

[12] Judge finds Formosa liable for plastic pollution at Texas plant
[click to view]

[13] OSHA Fines Formosa for Violations
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

VIDEO: Greening the Gulf
[click to view]

Other documents

Wilson and her boat Photo credit: Courthouse News
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Dalena Tran, ICTA, [email protected]
Last update08/01/2020
Conflict ID:4883
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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