The recent ammonia leak at the JBS Swift plant in the Butchertown neighborhood has residents demanding that Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer force plant operators to abide by stricter regulations.
On Wednesday, 80 pounds of anhydrous ammonia escaped from a slaughterhouse and firefighters urged residents in the neighborhood to stay indoors in the hours immediately after the leak as a precaution.
Butchertown Neighborhood Association President Andrew Cornelius says the plant has never provided residents with an action plan in the case of an emergency.
“The city absolutely needs to step up. I think that Mayor Greg Fischer has asked for a study into what has happened in the response behind the Rubbertown issue. I think he’s going to need to do the same thing here,” he says.
The group filed a lawsuit against the company last year, alleging it violated odor control laws set up by the city’s air pollution control agency.
Sirens sounded an hour after the accident, but some residents complained the fire department waited too long to issue that warning.
High levels of ammonia can cause respiratory problems, but firefighters said there were no levels of “harmful exposure” recorded outside the plant and that the order was made as a precaution.
Community leaders believe the city can do more to ensure that residents are better informed during an emergency and more to crackdown on the plant’s operation.
“Our regulating bodies are there to protect us and to regulate what products and how they’re used and how people can be informed if something goes awry,” says Cornelius. “They’re not there to be enablers and to let people just do things how they want to do that could be hazardous to the public.”
Residents plan to discuss their concerns with Fischer this Saturday during a Brightside Cleanup event in the neighborhood.