A plague of hydrogen sulfide, methane, leaking crude and other chemicals in oil-cursed south Louisiana is elevating and the forecast looks grim, according to recent news reports and eyewitnesses.
“The hydrogen sulfide levels in Chalmette are horrible; cannot go outside, odor is entering homes,” a Louisiana resident wrote to Louisiana Bucket Brigade (LABB) this weekend about the town between New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico.
That’s nothing new for South Louisiana residents in that area.
“New Orleans is perilously close to dropping below federal standards for ozone emissions, the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, or DEQ, said Tuesday. DEQ is asking the public in New Orleans and surrounding areas to suggest how to improve air quality in the state's southeast,” the Times Picayune reported Tuesday.
The New Orleans metropolitan area...currently meets the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for the pollutant ozone," the DEQ press release said. "However, the area is very close to becoming nonattainment and has joined the Environmental Protection Agency's Ozone Advance Program to take measures to reduce ozone.
DEQ is asking residents of Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. John and St. Tammany Parishes to take a brief survey on reducing ozone. (Times Picayune)
The DEQ wants the public to reduce the overwhelming pollution plaguing people there.
“DEQ is also asking residents to consider how they can reduce their ‘nonroad emissions’ especially those emitted by lawn and garden equipment, four wheelers and boats. This information will then be shared with the Regional Planning Commission,” the Times Picayune reports.
South Louisiana residents steadily file chemical assault reports to LABB, most taking a little time for the environmental watchdog group to verify, as seen below:
- On March 6, an LABB-verified report sated, “St. Bernard Parish sulphur dioxide levels once again spiked beyond federal health standards on Monday (March 4) amid questions by some [in] Chalmette.
- On March 5, LABB reported “DEQ should have issued an air quality alert for Monday for sulfur dioxide so that Chalmette Elementary School could have inside recess.”
- On March 4, the LABB iWitness Pollution Map page included a statement, “when the sulfur dioxide levels are this high in Chalmette, LDEQ needs to issue at least an air quality alert.”
- On Jan. 20, residents reported "dozens of St. Bernard Parish residents woke up on Sunday morning to crude oil splattered on their vehicles from the ExxonMobile Chalmette Refinery."
- On Jan 22, LABB reported, “Joe Davies Elementary school playground in Meraux, Louisiana had acute exposure levels of sulfur dioxide at 10 parts per billion or higher.”
- And at 07:04 on Jan 25, 2013: "Today's forecast for Chalmette: Foggy with a chance of oil. Hydrogen sulfide levels have already reached 29 ppb and 45 ppb in Chalmette."
- Hydrogen sulfide leaking in the area is nothing new. For example, Bloomberg reported it back in 2010 in an article, Exxon Reports Leak of Hydrogen Sulfide at Chalmette - Bloomberg.
- Oct 7, 2010 – “Chalmette refining is in the process of containing a leak of compressed flammable gas which contains small amounts of hydrogen sulfide,”
Meanwhile, Assumption Parish residents increasingly experience the impact of the Great Louisiana Sinkhole disaster, where a large salt dome is collapsing and methane, crude and other chemicals are spewing for miles into Cajun swamplands.
Of course, methane leaking and driving Cajuns off their homeland is nothing new there either. In 2003, the gas leaks were so prolific, most of Grand Bayou was forcibly evacuated, its residents never able to return to where their ancestors had been living off of the land for centuries.
And then, there’s Lake Peigneur, home of the 1980 salt dome collapse catastrophe.
Governor Jindal’s drive to allow another salt dome storage facility to expand at Lake Peigneur that has already experiencing one of the state’s worst disasters, is also causing South Louisiana residents woe.
That situation has reached the point that the Chief Law Enforcement Officer there contacted Jindal late last week, telling him to stop the abuse.
In his letter’s conclusion, Iberia Sheriff Louis Ackal told Jindal, “In closing, I cannot express how distressed I am over the future of Lake Peignuer and the residents of Iberia Parish.
“As Sheriff of Iberia Parish. I am sworn to protect the people of this parish and I will always honor that oath," he wrote.
"That said, I believe it is incumbent upon me to tell you what I know and have experienced firsthand with regards to Lake Peigneur.”
“We tried to pass legislation last year to prevent these salt dome catastrophes in Louisiana, but they looked at us like we’re against progress,” State Sen. Fred Mills, in his gentle Cajun accent, told Dupré in October.
According to what LABB says about its iWitness Pollution Map, more people in Louisiana could be putting this contribution to use:
The iWitness Pollution Map is produced by the Louisiana Bucket Brigade (LABB). This map was created so that you - fenceline communities, workers and concerned citizens - can speak out about how petrochemical pollution is threatening your livelihood, your health and the ecosystems you rely on.
The map uses Ushahidi crowd-sourcing platform to map eyewitness accounts of chemical accidents. Ushahidi was first used and developed by Kenyan bloggers to display reports of post-election violence. Since then Ushahidi has been used in other emergencies like the Haiti Earthquake response and to track crime in Atlanta. LABB's map was the first application of Ushahidi in a humanitarian response in the United States.
This map visualizes reports of chemical accidents submitted via text message, email and the web. Reports of oil spills, flaring, odors and health effects made by eyewitnesses and the media populate points on this interactive, web-based map. The information will be used to provide data about the impacts of industrial pollution in real time as well as document the stories of those who witness it.
LABB’s partners include: Tulane University Disaster Resilience Leadership Academy Payson Center for International Development Radical Designs [site host].
The non government agencies, such as LABB, have an increasingly taxing task of protecting Louisiana citizens from corporatism's deadly petrochemical assaults.
"This is genocide,” Sen. Fred Mills of Iberia and St. Martin, heart of Southern Louisiana culture, has stated. “This is a statewide issue."