(New Sarpy, August 30, 2000) After a year and a half of postponements and cancellations, the Concerned Citizens of New Sarpy and Orion President and CEO Clark Johnson are scheduled to meet at 10 AM on Wednesday, August 30th. On the citizens’ agenda is relocation for the community. “The problem is the noise, the fires, and the pollution in the air,” said Dorothy Jenkins, President of the community group. “We want to be relocated.” Mrs. Jenkins’ home is on St. Charles Street, 120 feet away from the Orion refinery. Equipment and sections of the facility can be seen from her front yard.
Orion management has repeatedly cancelled past meetings with Concerned Citizens of New Sarpy. The latest cancellation took place Tuesday, June 13th, the day after a fire at the refinery. The fire, the most recent accident at the facility, occurred when oil ignited after reaching a temperature of over 600 degrees. “You’d think Orion would want to meet with its neighbors and reassure them,” said Anne Rolfes of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, a group that assists the citizens of New Sarpy in monitoring their air quality. “Instead, they cancelled the meeting. Mr. Johnson has a responsibility to discuss relocation at the meeting on Wednesday, since management has neglected the community.” Another accident occurred at the refinery on May 1st, when four workers were burned by hot oil.
The Concerned Citizens of New Sarpy have long been advocating for relocation. “Since Orion first came around here counting houses and looking at property, I started to realize we should be moved out, too,” said Mrs. Jenkins. There is precedent for the relocation, as the neighborhood known as Good Hope was relocated by the refinery in the 1970’s. Percy Hollins of neighboring Norco remembers the relocation. “Two restaurants were there, a post office – they bought out the whole town. You mean that now they can’t buy out one street?” The company has recently purchased houses along one side of St. Charles Street, but has made no offer for Mrs. Jenkins’ side of the street. “Those homes are right across the street from my house,” said Mrs. Jenkins. “What about me?
Mrs. Jenkins takes air samples with the Bucket Brigade – the citizens’ air sampling project - in New Sarpy. Mrs. Jenkins has taken several air samples over the last year and a half. “I’m concerned by what I’ve found in our air. A whole mix of chemicals – with benzene. Benzene causes cancer. We don’t need to live next to that.” Flares and black smoke can frequently be seen coming from the refinery, and neighbors suspect that such activity is one source of the hazardous chemicals detected by the buckets.