HEADLINE: PLANTS' NEIGHBORS BAG THEIR AIR; TESTS WILL FLAG TOXIC CHEMICALS

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Copyright 1999 The Times-Picayune Publishing Co. 
Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA) 
June 21, 1999 Monday, ORLEANS 
SECTION: METRO; Pg. B1 
LENGTH: 681 words 
HEADLINE: PLANTS' NEIGHBORS BAG THEIR AIR;
TESTS WILL FLAG TOXIC CHEMICALS 
BYLINE: By Mary Swerczek River Parishes bureau 
BODY:
Using plastic five-gallon buckets loaded with special air-collection bags, Norco 
residents, concerned about possible toxic emissions from industries in their 
neighborhood, took air samples for the first time Saturday. 
The St. Charles Parish air will be sent to a California lab where it will be tested for about 
100 chemicals and results will be returned in 10 days. 
"We did this because we're afraid of what comes out of the plants," Norco resident Mary 
Hollins said. 
But a Shell Chemical Co. representative said residents probably won't find anything 
wrong with the air in Norco. 
"We've been in the community for over 70 years and have been recognized by the state 
for our commitment to health and the environment," said Lily Galland, community 
relations representative from Shell Chemical Co., adding that the Norco facility has 
reduced emissions by 99 percent from 1987 to 1997. 
Some environmental experts regard the community-based air sampling as a valuable way 
for residents living by industrial plants to get a sense of control over their neighborhood. 
"This is a really great tool for a community to use to be in control, before they smell 
things and don't know what's happening," said Maura Wood, a Sierra Club conservation 
organizer, who was at the event Saturday. The Sierra Club provided Norco citizens with a 
community action grant to pay for the buckets. 
The residents first took an air sample on Washington Street, standing between the 
baseball field and Shell Chemical Plant's fence. Resident Percy Hollins set up the bucket, 
attached the stainless steel valve and after three minutes of a low whirring noise, he 
opened the bucket to reveal a bag full of Norco air. About 10 Norco and New Sarpy residents watched, some holding their noses against a 
slight odor from the Shell Chemical Plant, which they presumed to be natural gas. 
"I'm sensitive to odors," Norco resident Margie Richard said, holding a tissue in front of 
her mouth and nose. "My throat's already sore." 
The group then caravaned to the Bonnet Carre Spillway and took another sample about 
300 yards from Shell Chemical. 
The buckets are more low-tech than the expensive stainless steel canisters that most 
government agencies use to get samples, but are often as reliable, said Denny Larson, the 
Northern California director of Communities for a Better Environment, who supervised 
the tests Saturday. 
"We did side-by-side tests with the canisters and in most cases the results were exactly 
the same," he said, adding that sometimes the buckets did a better job of detecting low 
levels of chemicals. 
And even though residents who use the buckets to test the air in their community are 
usually amateurs not armed with college degrees in environmental science or 
environmental engineering, the tests are scientifically accurate, Larson said. 
"There's really no difference between them doing it and a government agency," Larson 
said, as long as residents have been properly trained to use the devices. 
He said residents can use the test results to make industry accountable by reporting their 
findings to government agencies. 
The sampling will continue in the parish indefinitely. Five Norco and five New Sarpy 
residents will operate as "sniffers." When they smell chemicals in the air, they will alert 
the person with the bucket in their community and decide whether or not to test the air. 
Northern California residents, frustrated by a lack of communication with chemical 
industries in their neighborhoods, started the Bucket Brigade project four years ago. 
Richard first summoned national members of the Bucket Brigade project in California to 
Norco in December to take air samples after neighbors smelled a foul odor. Larson said 
teaching residents how to take their own samples reduces the burden on the national 
group. 
The St. Charles Bucket Brigade is the second in Louisiana, Larson said. Lake Charles 
residents started taking samples in September and have taken about 20 since then, he 
said. He is in Louisiana this week training residents in Norco, Convent and Geismar. GRAPHIC: Gaynel Johnson covers her nose and mouth against a chemical odor as she 
and other Norco and New Sarpy residents take air-quality samples near the Shell 
Chemical plant in Norco. Johnson says fumes from the plant make her sick. The samples 
will go to a California lab to be tested for harmful chemicals. STAFF PHOTO BY MATT 
ROSE Denny Larson, right, of the Communities for a Better Environment, supervises the 
first-time use of an air monitor as Norco resident Percy Hollins removes the air sample 
bag taken near the Shell Chemical plant in Norco. About 10 Norco and some New Sarpy 
residents were walked through the process of taking air quality samples and sending them 
to be evaluated. Five members of the Norco and New Sarpy communities will be 
appointed "sniffers" to smell the air in their communities periodically and alert the 
community that another sample needs to be taken. STAFF PHOTO BY MATT ROSE 
LOAD-DATE: June 21, 1999 

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