Last update:
2021-10-10

Kepone Chemical disaster in Hopewell, Virginia, USA

Despite Allied Chemical and LSP knowing that Kepone would likely have adverse health outcomes to workers exposed to it, they continued its production without proper safety measures


Description:

Although Life Science Products (LSP) only operated in Hopewell, VA for 16 months, its production of Kepone caused damage in people and the environment for decades. In July of 1975, Hopewell made headlines for the poisoning of workers at the Kepone production facility [4]. Kepone is a polychlorinated hydrocarbon – the same chemical family as DDT. Almost all of the Kepone produced was sent to West Germany, where the chemical was used in the production of Kelevan, a pesticide [3]. Kepone was therefore registered as a component product in pesticide manufacturing (though it could function as a pesticide), but not as a pesticide for direct application [3]. This distinction allowed the production of Kepone to skirt regulations. LSP did not register with the EPA as a pesticide-producer, and when applying for permits, never mentioned the toxicity of Kepone.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Kepone Chemical disaster in Hopewell, Virginia, USA
Country:United States of America
State or province:Hopewell
Location of conflict:Virginia
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Industrial and Utilities conflicts
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Chemical industries
Agro-toxics
Manufacturing activities
Specific commodities:Chemical products
Project Details and Actors
Project details

-Life Science Products operated a plant producing Kepone for 16 months, from February 1974 to July 1975.

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Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:>150
Start of the conflict:1976
Company names or state enterprises:Life Science Products from United States of America - company
Allied Chemical Corporation from United States of America
Relevant government actors:Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA),The U.S. Justice Department, National Cancer Institute, Environmental Protection Agency, Virginia AIr Pollution Control Board
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Ejos: James River Association (https://thejamesriver.org/); Virginia Environmental Endowment (formed as a result of fines against Allied Chemical, https://www.vee.org/)
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Industrial workers
Local government/political parties
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Civil and criminal judicial responses;
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Genetic contamination, Soil contamination, Air pollution, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Other Environmental impactsRiver contamination,
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Occupational disease and accidents
Potential: Deaths
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment
Potential: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures
Other socio-economic impactsThe closing of the James River constituted a legal ban on the taking of all shellfish
and finfish, with enormous economic consequences.
Outcome
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
New legislation
Project cancelled
Development of alternatives:In 1976, the James River Association was founded in response to the Kepone disaster in order to protect the river and the people who care for it.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:On July 24th, 1975 Life Sciences Products was closed by the Commonwealth of Virginia due to the health impacts of its product, Kepone. However, Kepone persisted in the river and marine life for decades. As of 2005, there have been no permanent health impacts on former workers at Life Sciences Products.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

[11] Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1972.
[click to view]

[10] Federal Refuse Act of 1899
[click to view]

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

[4] The Legacy of Kepone
[click to view]

[5] Kidd, David E., and William M. Hadley. "Kepone: A Case Study of an Environmental Legacy." The American Biology Teacher 44, no. 8 (1982): 466-471.

[3] Michael R. Reich and Jaquelin K. Spong (1983) "Kepone: a chemical disaster in Hopewell, Virginia". International Journal of Health Services, Volume 13, Number 2.
[click to view]

[2] A Turning Point for the James
[click to view]

[1] KEPONE PRODUCERS SUED BY VIRGINIA
[click to view]

[6] Foster, Richard. "Kepone: The 'Flour' Factory." Richmond Magazine. (2005).
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

[7] Kepone Poisoning of Workers 1976 Hopewell Virginia
[click to view]

[8] Toxic Dust: The History and Legacy of Virginia’s Kepone Disaster by Gregory Wilson
[click to view]

[9] James River Association
[click to view]

[12] Lessons of Kepone. By Jason Roop
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Grettel Navas (ENVJustice Project) and Arielle Landau (BOLD Fellowship Program)
Last update10/10/2021
Comments
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