Community releases air quality report: 41 violations of state and federal health standards

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[Chalmette, LA] A new report on the air quality in St. Bernard Parish reveals 41 violations of state and federal air standards near the troubled ExxonMobil Chalmette Refining. The facility in Chalmette did not provide information about its contribution to air pollution in the parish and has missed a November 15th deadline for providing results of its air samples. 

“Exxon Mobil reports to our government that everything is safe, but they refuse to provide any proof,” said Ken Ford, President of St. Bernard Citizens for Environmental Quality. “It is our right as a community to see this information.”

Seven EPA approved air samples taken by the St. Bernard community from April – August, 2003 detected 41 violations of state and federal air standards.  “The only facts presented are from the community,” said Anne Rolfes, Director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade “and they show pollution and danger for people’s health. It’s time for Exxon Mobil to improve their operations so that people are no longer exposed to these dangerous toxic chemicals.”  

Six weeks after an initial written request, refinery management has still failed to provide the results or even to respond to requests for information. 

The Louisiana Bucket Brigade first requested the results of the air samples on October 1, 2003, after reading a report written by ExxonMobil stating that air samples were taken following a dangerous release in July.  Despite repeated calls and two certified letters to the refinery management, there has been no response. 

Residents of Chalmette are increasingly alarmed about the “toxic soup” in the air.  “I have never smoked a day in my life,” said Mr. Ford, “and yet I have had lung cancer. These chemicals are known to cause cancer. Stop our exposure. Enough is enough.” 

Among the chemicals detected in the air samples are known carcinogens and chemicals known to attack the respiratory and nervous systems. Families in 10 of the 12 houses in one of the blocks near ExxonMobil have suffered from cancer.

National groups are taking notice of the problems in St. Bernard Parish. “This new report shows the air quality is a real threat to refinery neighbors and the whole parish,” said Denny Larson of the Refinery Reform Campaign. “Refineries continue to not tell the truth by providing the data they claim proves safety.  Many national organizations are beginning to scrutinize Chalmette Refining. They need to improve their operations.”

ExxonMobil issues assurances of safety based on the results of samples that they claim to take. In a report about the July 11th release, ExxonMobil reported to the Emergency Planning Commission that “Community monitoring was conducted in the area downwind of the refinery for sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide with no elevated readings.” The company has failed, however, to provide results of that monitoring, and no outside source has corroborated that the samples were ever taken.

ExxonMobil profits for the third quarter of 2003 were 3.65 billion dollars (Associated Press report). “ExxonMobil is making money because they are cutting corners in Chalmette and in communities around the world,” said Ms. Rolfes. “We won’t sacrifice our health so that their CEO can ride in a limousine.”

PRESS CONFERENCE

WHERE:    12 Carroll Drive, home of Chalmette resident Ken Ford
WHEN:    11 AM, Thursday, November 20, 2003

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