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Accidental Release of Toxic Chemicals Pollutes Air and Water in Louisiana

Millions of pounds of toxic chemicals and millions of gallons of polluted water into state water were released as a consequence of frequent accidents at ten of Louisiana’s largest refineries between 2005-2008. According to a report released on December 7, 2009 by the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, about one third of the 2,116 accidents occurring in the ten plants were a result of bad weather and hurricanes.  The environmental group behind the report hopes to begin conversation between refinery representatives regarding the accidents and ways to reduce toxic emissions through participating at a stakeholder roundtable.  Although the state has taken some steps toward reducing chemical accidents such as adoption of accident prevention regulations in 1996, Anne Rolfes, the director of the Bucket Brigade, do not think that Louisiana is moving quickly enough.  She feels that the state needs to adopt necessary risk-management plans and perform the annual inspections to identify the problems that they set out to accomplish in 1996 in order to ensure the safety of citizens living nearby.  The report also points out that the accidents in the refineries usually affect low-income individuals and African Americans more frequently than other citizens because they usually live more closely to the plants.  For example, in 2008 ExxonMobil reported an average of 3.7 accidents per week in their facility that is surrounded in a two mile radius by a population that is 87% African American with a median income of $21,982. Rolfes and other environmental activists believe facilities need to take more responsibility to ensure that the health and safety of all nearby residents, regardless of their income, race, or background.

Sources:

Schleifstein, Mark. “Accidental Release of Toxic Chemicals, Polluted Water by

Local Plants Cited in Report.” Nola. N.p., 7 Dec. 2009. Web. 8 Dec. 2009. <http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2009/12/post_188.html>.

Student Researchers: Jillian Harbin & Abbey Wilson

Faculty Instructor: Kevin Howley, Associate Professor of Media Studies, DePauw University

Evaluator: Tim Cope, Department of Geosciences, DePauw University

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