St. Bernard Parish refineries engage in pollution cover up: New analysis of air monitoring shows carcinogens and developmental toxins go unmonitored

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(Chalmette, October 25) Chalmette’s Exxon Mobil Refinery – currently under the cloud of a federal Clean Air Act law suit – came under fire again today, this time in a review of its air monitoring program in St. Bernard Parish. “We have learned that Mobil’s air monitor is nearly a mile and a half away from the place where their pollution is happening,” said Kenneth Ford of the St. Bernard Citizens for Environmental Quality. “If Mobil really wanted to know what chemicals they are releasing, they would put their monitor in my neighborhood.” Mr. Ford lives directly across the street from the refinery. 

The St. Bernard Citizens group, the Louisiana Bucket Brigade and the Refinery Reform Campaign are today releasing a first-ever analysis of Exxon Mobil’s air monitoring program. The findings document basic flaws in the design of the program, flaws that prevent Exxon from detecting some of the most harmful chemicals that the refinery reports releasing. “This monitoring system is an attempt to sweep pollution problems under the rug, “said Anne Rolfes of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade. “If you don’t look for the deadliest chemicals, you cannot protect people from them.”

The analysis released today reviews the results of Exxon Mobil and Murphy’s joint air monitoring program - Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Program Quality Assurance Report.  Today’s analysis is the first time that the air monitoring program has ever been reviewed by outside sources with no ties to government or industry. Among the alarming discoveries is the fact that the air monitor is not designed to detect chemicals at levels known to harm people.

In its annual Toxic Release Inventory to the federal government, Exxon Mobil reports storing, producing and releasing chemicals known to harm human health, including benzene, carbonyl sulfide, carbon disulfide, xylene, methyl ethel ketone and toluene. Despite this fact, Exxon Mobil’s air monitor does not test for these chemicals. These chemicals have repeatedly been detected in air samples taken by community members with their buckets. “This monitoring system is corrupt,” said Denny Larson of the Refinery Reform Campaign. “Exxon doesn’t want anyone to know the poisons they are dumping on people, so they have created a phony monitoring system to cover it up.”

Accurate air monitoring is important because it is the only way to find out what chemicals are coming from the refineries into the neighborhoods where people live. Incomplete or poorly placed monitors allow facilities, such as Exxon Mobil in St. Bernard Parish, to provide reports of clean air based on incomplete information.

The St. Bernard Citizens for Environmental Quality have been taking air samples with their buckets for over two years. In the last 18 months alone, community members have taken 18 air samples and have captured 92 violations of state and federal standards and health screening levels. Many of the samples have been taken near Rowley School, an elementary school that residents fear is directly in the path of exposure to Exxon Mobil chemicals.

All of the air samples were taken when the wind was blowing toward the neighborhood from the refinery. “Exxon Mobil made $21.5 billion dollars in profit last year,” said Anne Rolfes of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, “If Exxon were a good neighbor they would use the profit they are making in Chalmette and monitor in the neighborhoods where kids are being exposed.”

In addition to the bucket air samples, the community has proof of chemical exposure from the results of using the CEREX high technology monitor. Sulfur dioxide - known to trigger asthma attacks – and benzene, a known carcinogen, were repeatedly detected coming from Exxon Mobil and into the neighborhood.

The St. Bernard Citizens for Environmental Quality have long been advocating for safeguarding the health of the parish by putting in high technology monitors on the fencelines of the facilities and in the neighborhoods were chemical exposure happens. 

When:         11 AM, Monday, October 25th

Where:     12 Carroll Drive - Chalmette, Access there to the playing field behind Rowley School

 

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MEDIA ADVISORY:

What:    A new analysis of the joint Exxon Mobil / Murphy Oil air monitoring program in Chalmette will be released on Monday. The analysis, performed by the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, St. Bernard Citizens for Environmental Quality and the Refinery Reform Campaign, is the first time that the air monitoring program has ever been reviewed by outside sources with no ties to government or industry.

The analysis reviews the refineries’ Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Program Quality Assurance Report. Numerous problems have been found with the program, including basic lapses in the design that prevent the refineries from gaining an accurate picture of community exposure.

Why:     Accurate monitoring is important because it is the only way to verify what chemicals are coming from the refineries into the neighborhoods where people live. Incomplete or poorly placed monitors allow facilities, such as the two oil refineries in St. Bernard Parish, to provide reports of clean air based on incomplete information.

Both Exxon Mobil and Murphy release chemicals known to harm human health, including respiratory irritants such as sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide as well as benzene, a known carcinogen. Toluene, known to affect children’s development, is also released by the refineries. These chemicals have repeatedly been detected in the neighborhoods by citizen air sampling, with both the buckets and the high technology air sampling devices.

The St. Bernard Citizens for Environmental Quality have long been advocating for safeguarding the health of the parish by putting in high technology monitors on the fencelines of the facilities and in the neighborhoods were chemical exposure happens. 

When:         11 AM, Monday, October 25th

Where:     12 Carroll Drive - Chalmette, Access there to the field behind Rowley School

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