A look at Rubbertown's smokey history

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by Doug Proffitt

WHAS11.com

Posted on March 22, 2011 at 6:16 PM

Updated Tuesday, Mar 22 at 7:12 PM

Click here for more stories/coverage on the Rubbertown explosion

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) – Rubbertown gets its name from the petroleum products that once dominated production at its plants. Its history is intertwined with Louisville's growth in the industrial age. Currently there are eleven companies that make up Rubbertown. It is considered a major employer, paying wages on the higher end of the scale.
   It sits between the Ohio River, the Shawnee Expressway and over two zip codes. As the kids from Stephen Foster Traditional danced in a circle out their front door on a spring day, the neighbor that's been at their backyard since 1918 still reeled from a blast and explosion that killed two workers and injured two others.
   In fact, a short 30 second flight in SKY11 took us from the school yard to the still smoking building at carbide industries. And that is the reality of Rubbertown. Schools and businesses are its neighbors.
   The Shawnee Expressway carries hundreds of cars through the industrial zone every day even though it is the largest source of industrial emissions in Jefferson County. Some of the city's oldest neighborhoods back right up to it. New housing projects have been built in its shadow.
   Products made at Rubbertown companies with names like Carbide, Dow, Dupont, and Zeon fit a wide range from acrylic paint, to adhesives for labels and stickers, to disposable diapers. If Rubbertown is out of sight and out of mind to you, think again. Its emissions sweep across Kentuckiana.
   In the 1990's the Kentucky Cancer Registry indicated west end residents tended to have higher rates of cancer than the rest of Jefferson County. Aggressive air testing several years later in the area confirmed what residents have said all along – Rubbertown's emissions were putting people in the west end at high risk of lung cancer.
   In 2005, the city launched a program with the cooperation of Rubbertown's companies and they have dramatically cut their emissions. OSHA has been called to the Carbide Industries plant three times in the past 10 years, but never issued a citation. In June 2009 they were there after the plant was evacuated after a fire. No one was injured.

Click here for more stories/coverage on the Rubbertown explosion


 

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