Orion bars citizens' technical adviser from meeting: Community discovers problems with samples; calls for relocation renewed

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(New Sarpy, November 3) Orion refinery officials yesterday barred the community's technical expert from a meeting in which Orion presented the results of its air samples. Four Orion experts were present at the meeting at company headquarters. "It takes four of them to understand the results, so why can't we have an expert?" asked Dorothy Jenkins of New Sarpy Concerned Citizens. "What kind of public relations games are they playing with our lives?" Community members had arranged to have Dr. Wilma Subra present at the meeting via conference call. Orion officials refused to let be present.

The troubled Orion took the air samples in response to the community's revelation of the company's benzene releases. The New Sarpy residents have twice in the past year found benzene violations - at four times the state standard - with their own air sampling, the community Bucket Brigade. "The fact that they wouldn't allow a technical expert in the meeting tells a lot about their sampling," said Anne Rolfes of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade. "What do they have to fear?" 

Ms. Rolfes, who trains citizens on how to take air samples with the bucket brigade, also questioned the results of the samples based on weather factors. Standard sampling practices note the wind conditions at the sampling location, since wind can blow chemicals away and make them non-detectable. "Orion does not know what the wind was like on the sampling days. Their meteorological station was across the river in Hahnville, miles away from the sampling site."

Prior to yesterday's meeting, New Sarpy Concerned Citizens informed Orion that the results were not acceptable. "You proposed the sampling in last month's meeting so that you could work with the community," stated an October 25th letter to Orion. "You have failed to live up to many of the promises that you made, both in the meeting, to the press, and in the follow up conference call. There is no point in persisting with the results of samples that we do not accept." Stanford Caillouet of New Sarpy disputed the tests. "They average the chemicals over 24 hours. An average is nothing to me when the odor is in my face in and I can't breathe." Orion officials could not respond to such experiences, since they do not live in New Sarpy.

Members of the New Sarpy community renewed their calls for relocation in the meeting. "You can have it all," said Hazel Davis, a resident of the neighborhood near Orion. "Get us out of here and you can put out all you want and we won't be bothered no more." Mrs. Jenkins agreed. "Get us out from under this plant," she said. "I don't want money, I want turn key. That is, they give me a new house, with no debt, and they give me the key."

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