After much planning, the Standard Heights Spring Fling Block Party finally came into fruition last Saturday April 13th. In terms of success I have to say I’m pleased with the end result. People came and enjoyed themselves and enthusiastically participated in the activities.
Thanks for reading our monthly accident report! People may forget what they had for breakfast, but they will never forget horrible smells that sent them to the emergency room or explosions that blew out all the windows in their home for as long as they live. Though their reports may be 24 days old, Louisianans will never forget the image of Bayou Perot burning, the feeling of heavy breathing, and the experience of their child vomiting white fluids.
On April 3-5, Ronesha Johnson of Residents for Air Neutralization and Kristen Evans of the Bucket Brigade traveled to the University of Kentucky on the invitation of Dr. Shannon Bell of the Sociology Department to give a public talk and then another talk to her class on environmental justice. We received a warm and enthusiastic welcome from the professors and students, with great conversations about the environmental challenges in both Kentucky and Louisiana. Here are a few reflections on the trip.
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.
New Orleans is constantly offering lagniappes to her guests and residents, not the least of which are regular surprises (which cease to be so surprising) about what a small town this really is. The Louisiana Bucket Brigade is putting on the 5th annual New Orleans Earth Day Festival and Green Business Expo this month; this year the festival hopes to open eyes about some of the hidden petrochemicals in daily life under the theme “Rethinking Petrochemicals.”
When I walked in the office last Thursday afternoon, little did I know I would be deploying to LaFitte, LA as part of the Rapid Response Team (RRT), a group of volunteers trained in talking with residents of an affected area that are ready should the unfortunate experience of an accident occur. The team left the office equipped with health surveys and flyers for our iWitness Pollution Map, ready to speak with communities who may be affected. Our first stop was a briefing with the Coast Guard.
My first two weeks with the Louisiana Bucket Brigade (LABB) have been filled with lessons from history and current events. Following current events that are not necessarily reported by the media has provided me with a new understanding of the effects from industrial pollution. Some injustices that added to the inequities are buried deep in Louisiana’s history, although these events are eventually brought to the public as well.
On Tuesday night, March 12, something unusual happened. LDEQ held a public hearing for a permit about to be issued to Exxon to expand their chemical plant another eight acres. LDEQ was forced to hold that hearing because of the public outcry against the 8.3 acre expansion to become one of the largest petrochemical complexes in the world. The problem, of course, is the largest petrochemical complex in the world is in the middle of the metropolitan downtown of Baton Rouge; over 59,000 people live within two miles of that complex.
The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality says that pollution from industrial accidents is decreasing. They even have a number for it – 41% since 2008. Yet last week the agency created theInformation Exchange Workgroup to address the problem of accidents at Louisiana’s petrochemical plants. Is our LDEQ an overachieving, ambitious agency determined to eliminate accidents? Or is it the agency that the EPA Inspector General described as having “a culture in which the state agency is expected to protect industry?” (p. 21)
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