On June 14th, a year after the anniversary of the ExxonMobil Benzene spill where 31,000 pounds of the known carcinogen was released, the Refinery Efficiency Initiative interns took a trip out to Baton Rouge to visit environmental leader Willie Fontenot. As we walked into the house ready to hear about his actions and love for the environmental world, the first thing I noticed was books. Books were everywhere, on every shelf, table, and chair. I knew we were in for a good time. Ready to hear about Mr. Fontenot’s widespread knowledge, not only from all the books he has read but from his life experiences, he began by pulling out a large stack of papers.
We deployed to Geismar last Friday in response the Williams Olefins explosion that occurred the previous morning. Our goal in deploying was to make information of the accident known to those who live in close proximity to the facility, as well as compiling information regarding any related personal experiences and health effects these residents may be exhibiting in response to the accident and the subsequent release of chemicals. This information was collected with the purpose of informing the State of Louisiana of any possible dangers caused by this accident. We also were deployed to inform people of our iWitness Pollution Map so they may report and view information of possible future accidents.
My name is Addie Williams, and I am interning as a Petrochemical Accident Researcher this summer. I am a junior at Tulane University, and my passion for public health brought me to the Bucket Brigade. After a busy first week, we embarked on a Hidden History Tour led by Mr. Leon Waters to get a glimpse of what our research and what the Bucket Brigade is really all about.
The iWitness Pollution Map allows concerned citizens or other eyewitnesses to report accidents at oil refineries and chemical plants. The map also displays National Response Center (NRC) reports of chemical accidents in the state of Louisiana and the surrounding Gulf of Mexico waters.
Starting on May 21st, the ExxonMobil Refinery and Chemical plant reported having equipment failures and releases of chemicals for over a week.
The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality gave Exxon Mobil a variance to release up to 24 tons of sulfur dioxide a day. Louisiana Bucket Brigade responded to this accident by collecting data on these chemical releases, and by deploying the Accident Response team to find out more about what people in the near-by communities were experiencing.
May is Louisiana Air Quality Awareness Month; the theme has been focused on how citizens can reduce their carbon footprint by simple pollution cutting practices such as carpooling or riding your bike to work. While I can thoroughly agree that these practices will bring our community a little closer to safe ozone levels in the atmosphere – the truth is industry needs to amend their practices to make any real difference to Louisiana’s Air Quality.
It’s been a dramatic process, but EPA administrator-nominee, Gina McCarthy has finally been approved by the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee. First, she had to answer more than a 1,000 questions, an unprecedented amount for a nominee. About half of these questions came from our very own Sen. David Vitter. McCarthy answered the questions and was set to have a committee vote to approve her the morning of May 9th. Half an hour before the meeting, committee Democrats received news that Republicans, led by good, ole Vitter were boycotting the hearing and preventing her approval, as no members of the minority party were going to be present.
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