Louisiana Bucket Brigade and Hurricane Katrina

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We are stunned, absolutely stunned and shocked. Who could imagine that lives could change ­ and end ­ so drastically in such a short time? Most but not all of our staff members are accounted for, and the same holds true for the community members with whom we work. It is impossible to communicate with people, but we know that most people did evacuate. We do, though, know of others who did not evacuate and for those we continue to hope and pray.

It is obvious to everyone that the sick, the poor, the old and the young ­ nearly all of them African American ­ are the ones that have been left to die in the waters of Hurricane Katrina. A crucial part of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade's response will be to face this injustice. These are the same forces that find people of color and low income communities sucking down pollution every day of their lives.

The Louisiana Bucket Brigade has established an office in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and will be knocking on doors in the area next week to raise money and awareness. In the next few weeks our goals are as follows:

  • To assure an honest and accurate accounting by both industry and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality of the toxics that have been released.
  • To get help and funding from experts at all levels ­ including the federal government.
  • To plan for toxics monitoring once the floodwaters recede.

This clean up cannot be left in the hands of a state that cannot protect its citizens from toxics even under ordinary circumstances.

For the last several years, the focus of our work has been in St. Bernard Parish, supporting the St. Bernard Citizens for Environmental Quality who live in Chalmette across the street from ExxonMobil. The homes of the community group members are almost surely under water, as this parish was among the hardest hit. Though the community group leaders have been safely evacuated, there is no doubt that hundreds ­ 1,500 according to the last report ­ of Chalmette residents remain stranded.

In the midst of the flooding the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality and an ExxonMobil employee claimed that no toxics were being released. This report came several days ago, and these institutions may have faced reality by now. However, given the woeful track record, the government and industry need monitoring now more than ever.

The two refineries there ­ ExxonMobil and Murphy Oil ­ are shut down and have taken on water as well. According to news reports, there was one ExxonMobil employee in Chalmette after the storm. The refinery manager did not remain nor has there been any statement from him. This is what happens corporate chiefs with no ties to the community are in charge.

We are determined to do our part, as all of us are. For more information in the coming days, please go to www.labucketbrigade.org

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Louisiana Bucket Brigade
2803 Saint Phillip Street
New Orleans, LA 70119

 (504) 484-3433
 (504) 324-0332
 info (@) labucketbrigade.org