The Emergency Response Team (ERT) is a group of trained personnel who go door to door in communities impacted by chemical accidents and emergencies throughout Louisiana. LABB’s Emergency Response Team (ERT) was formed with guidance from personnel from the American Red Cross and the US Coast Guard, with additional guidance from Federal Emergency Management Agency resources.
In the month of August, there were 379 chemical accidents reported to the iWitness Pollution Map. Of these 379 reports, only 100 came from citizens. The other 279 reports came from the National Response Center (NRC), which is the federal point of contact for reporting chemical and oil spills.
Last week I had the privilege of traveling to both Shreveport and Baton Rouge to meet residents of the communities LABB is actively involved with. I have been working for the Bucket Brigade for about a month and a half now, and every morning I transcribe iWitness reports detailing the odors and other nuisances coming from the refineries and petrochemical companies surrounding these neighborhoods. Visiting the fenceline communities in Baton Rouge and Shreveport provided me with a visual of where these iWitness reports are coming from. More importantly, I got to meet some of the residents who are making these reports, and are affected by the petrochemical companies on a daily basis.
Last Friday, LDEQ finally hit Exxon Baton Rouge in its pocketbooks, though this settlement hardly even comes close to a slap on the wrist. The $2.4 million settlement covers violations going back to 2004 and includes a $60,000 fine for the June 2012 30,000 pound benzene spill. Reading through the settlement, I was at times pleasantly surprised, groaning in disgust and utterly disappointed.
The residents of Plaquemines Parish may be getting a new neighbor. On August 14th and 15th, community members gathered together to express their concerns and dissatisfaction of the possible building of a new coal terminal in the area.
On August 14th, the Emergency Response Team deployed to Port Allen and downtown Baton Rouge following the August 12th butadiene release in West Baton Rouge Parish. This colorless, flammable gas was released from Intercontinental Terminal Company, which is owned by ExxonMobil, in Port Allen, LA after lightning reportedly struck a storage container.
Two weeks have passed since a train derailed near Lawtell, Louisiana. This is an update to an August 8th blog post titled, Trend in Transportation Accidents – Train Derailment in St. Landry Parish. To summarize the details from my last blog, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal had declared a state of emergency on August 5th around the site of a derailed train that leaked chemicals in St. Landry Parish. There were 27 rail cars that derailed, and several that leaked their entire contents. These cars leaked a total of approximately 43,000 gallons of lube oil, dodecanol (a detergent like alcohol used in cleaning mixtures), and sodium hydroxide (a toxic and caustic chemical also known as lye).
I was lucky enough to be one of the community organizers last week working in Belle Chasse to protest the building of an additional coal plant in Plaquemines Parish. This coal plant proposal will be detrimental to the health and safety of a number of citizens. It will be making upwards of six trips a day carrying 100 cars of uncovered coal, the coal dust created by these cars is a threat to the safety of our communities. Because the size of the coal dust is so small once it enters our lungs our bodies don’t recognize it as something harmful to expel. It stays in our lungs, enters our blood stream and causes a number of respiratory illnesses such as asthma, lung cancer, and black lung.
Another petrochemical transportation emergency in Southern Louisiana occurred in the form of 27 rail cars derailing this past Sunday, August 4th around 3:30 PM. The most recent event continuing a trend of chemical transportation disaster occurred in the rural St. Landry Parish town of Lawtell, Louisiana. According to the news reports by The Advocate, crews began replacing about 1,800 feet of track on Monday around the site of a derailed Union Pacific train that leaked a corrosive chemical and forced the evacuation of about 100 south Louisiana homes.
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