GOOSE CREEK, S.C. (WCBD) – More than a dozen people have filed a class action lawsuit against Century Aluminum over recent aluminum oxide (alumina) dust emissions.
Residents in Goose Creek began complaining of a white, gritty substance that was found on their vehicles and property in late summer, which prompted city leaders and state health officials to investigate the source.
It was determined that the emissions were connected to an “unusual failure” in the plant’s baghouse and followed a change in suppliers for the filter used in that process.
The lawsuit, filed Nov. 10, alleges that the smelter emitted “excessive amounts” of alumina on at least three occasions in September due to a malfunction connected to bags used to collect the dust.
At the time, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) said that the alumina dust emissions were not a threat the public health.
“The particle size of the dust being seen in the community is large and therefore too big to enter human lungs; however, it can still irritate your skin, eyes, and nose, and can be a respiratory irritant after prolonged exposure,” the agency told News 2.
However, the lawsuit states that the plaintiffs have experienced side effects from the emissions including bloody noses, sinus issues, shortness of breath, asthma, and other ailments.
“The aluminum oxide particulates and other particulates emitted from the Smelter were suspended in the air in the area in Goose Creek around the Smelter where residents inhaled the particulates,” the lawsuit states. “Depending on the size of the particulates, the particulates were trapped by mucous membranes in residents’ noses, throats, eyes, and ears, were inhaled into residents’ lungs, or passed through resident’s lungs into their blood.”
Century said it returned to stable/normal operations on Oct. 17 following the malfunctions in its bag room.