EJ Corps Week 3: Garyville Horror

This post summarizes week three of Akasa Thomas’ Environmental Justice Corps fellowship at LABB. Last week, LABB summer interns met with community liaison Iris Brown Carter, a former resident of Norco’s Diamond neighborhood and a former board member of LABB. She took them to Garyville, where she is currently working to organize residents near Marathon Refinery.

Off La. 54, west of New Orleans, there is a little town called Garyville in the shadow of Marathon Refinery. Iris Brown Carter, a community liaison for LABB, and several LABB interns went to Garyville to pass out fliers about a June 30 meeting to inform the community about accidents at the refinery and how they affect residents’ health and their homes.

We started out at the Garyville Public Library where we met a community member named Lawrence who rode his bike to the library to get information about a turtle he just caught. He was a very nice man who made us feel comfortable seeing as this was our first time visiting the area.

We then went to the nearest low-income housing development, where we spoke with several men who did not seem concerned about refinery pollution in their community.

After putting up more fliers in the neighborhoods, we went down Baloney Street where I spoke with a man named Robert. He complained of chest pains and explained that he thinks his health problems are because he lives so close to Marathon Refinery.

My colleagues and I then approached a nice home with nice cars in the driveway. There was a woman and a man exiting the home as we approached. After introducing ourselves, the woman began to tell me how something was supposed to be done about the refinery a while back but nothing ever happened. She said her sister-in-law was working in the community to make some changes, but the refinery gave her money to stop her efforts.

The woman also let me see her home and showed me the black stains that were all over her ceiling and the top of her walls. Marathon sent inspectors out to her home and they called it “black ghost” or soot stains. She also let me see the inside of her fridge where black ghost had seeped into her freezer. Lastly she began to open her cabinets where I could see how this material had begun to settle onto her glasses and plates. She said she has to paint her walls frequently and change her air vents several times a year because of the amount of residue that settles in her home.

I really enjoyed speaking with the concerned citizens in Garyville and it just makes me feel like I am doing this for a reason. It gives us the opportunity to see things that we can change and the challenges that lie ahead of us. I look forward to working with the community of Garyville and with LABB. It feels great to help give a silent community a voice!

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