Why Supporting Emergency Response is Important

Anna Hrybyk 2By Anna Hrybyk, Program Manager

Why should you donate?  Because arming people with tools to document pollution builds our strength to hold polluters accountable.

Louisiana refineries average 6 accidents per week. Day in and day out we see industry claim that their accidents have “no offsite impact” as if they have some magic fence that keeps their millions of pounds and gallons of chemicals out of our air and water.  It is up to all of us to provide the documentation that proves they have no magic fence.

Our Emergency Response Team was created to systematically document the health impacts of petrochemical accidents on nearby neighborhoods.  Our door-to-door team conducts health surveys and trains people to report their experiences in their own words to the iWitness Pollution Map via phone, text or email (iwitnesspollution.org). What follows is the story of a spring day in 2013 that may have gone unnoticed if it were not for hundreds of people exercising their power to speak up about the quality of the air they were breathing.
I’m at odeon ave I smell, gas, burnt rubber it made me feel sick and threw up, head hurt”  Text Message to the iWitness Pollution Map, April 4th, 2013.

On April 3rd, 2013, ExxonMobil’s Chalmette Refinery reported a leak of “wastewater” which they later declared was from corrosion.  There were 124 citizen reports to the iWitness Pollution Map between April 3rd and April 4th about the chemical smell in the New Orleans metro area. The first one came in at 12:30 AM reporting an overwhelming tar smell.  On April 4th, LABB’s Emergency Response Team deployed to Algiers on the West Bank because report locations on the map confirmed the wind direction that day was pushing the chemicals from Chalmette across the river into Algiers, Uptown New Orleans as far as Harahan and Marrero.

LDEQ was driving all over the metro area looking for the source of the stink. Meanwhile, in the neighborhood across the river from Chalmette Refining, LABB’s Emergency Response Team was interviewing 110 residents about what they experienced during the accident.  That day 92 people reported chemical odors to our team and 55 people reported health effects associated with the chemical smell, including respiratory problems, nausea, headaches, and eye irritation.  The evidence of “offsite impact” was undeniable.  Chalmette Refinery publicly apologized and set up a claims number for the accident.

Without your support, companies will continue to blow off the serious impacts of their accidents with statements like “no off-site impacts,” “no harmful chemicals were released” and “no threats to public health.”  Don’t let them get away with that.  Make a donation today.

This entry was posted in Emergency Preparedness, Emergency Response Team, Oil Refineries, Public Health. Bookmark the permalink.

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