On May 7, 2013 I attended a community meeting on Lupine Avenue in the Standard Heights neighborhood across from Honeywell and ExxonMobil. Twelve people texted and called to our iWitness Pollution Map regarding a strong chemical odor during that time and earlier that day. It disrupted the meeting because many people were getting sick from the chemical fumes.
LABB received 10 reports to the iWitness Pollution Map on Thursday May 9, 2013 from the Greater New Orleans/Chalmette area concerning sulfur and petroleum odors and flaring from the Chalmette facilities. Many more came in on Friday May 10, 2013 and through the weekend as well.
LABB received 3 reports to our iWitness Pollution Map from North Baton Rouge neighborhoods surrounding the ExxonMobil complex within a two hour time period on the evening on May 3rd. The ExxonMobil Chemical Plant Baton Rouge Complex reported releasing Sulfur Dioxide early morning on May 5th according to an NRC report.
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.
April 24th in the Metro New Orleans area was a rainy day. On rainy days I have come to expect foul odors from refinery accidents because the heavily corroded infrastructure can’t handle the rain. We received four reports to the iWitness Pollution Map of burning and sulfur odors within a short time frame on April 24th, following almost exactly the pattern of the rain that morning.
The 1811 Slave Revolt – the largest in North America – happened along River Road, in the same location where plantations have now become chemical plants. Can we draw on that spirit of resistance today to fight the petrochemical polluters who have taken the physical place of the slaveholders?
The end of the BP trial last week coincided with the three year anniversary of the company’s disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. This poetic timing is in contrast to the ugly reality before us: livelihoods destroyed, wildlife at risk. Yet Louisiana can learn and improve from this disaster. Here are three things you can do to make the oil industry more accountable in this state:
The same day many in Louisiana are celebrating the potential economic impact of a proposed ammonia plant in Waggaman, La there was a deadly explosion at a similar facility in West, Texas. The new 850 million dollar Dyno Nobel International ammonia plant is planned to be built approximately a half a mile from the Mississippi River levees that protect the residents of Jefferson Parish. The company’s motto is “groundbreaking performance” which leads me to hope there is no ground broken on either side of the levee – including the nearby levee on the East bank – where Louis Armstrong International Airport is only a couple of miles away.
After I got my MPH from Tulane School of Public Health I was recruited by Catholic Relief Services to serve in their India Program. During my first years in India, I learned about how a dynamic civil society can change long entrenched social injustices: women’s empowerment through literacy, savings and lending programs and Community Based Disaster Preparedness initiatives which saved hundreds of lives during seasonal flooding and cyclones.
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