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St. Bernard Residents Sick from Oil Industry Pollution
New Door to Door Survey Released Today

January 25th, 2013

January 24, 2013 For Immediate Release

Contact: Anna Hrybyk, Program Manager, (504) 484 - 3433

St. Bernard Residents Sick from Oil Industry Pollution

New Door to Door Survey Released Today

Where: 4226 Canal Street

When: 10:30 am – today (Thursday)

(New Orleans) Seventy people in Chalmette reported respiratory problems, headaches, and / or eye irritation in a door to door survey conducted by the Louisiana Bucket Brigade’s Rapid Response Team on Friday, January 18th. The team surveyed 132 residents in the parish in response to recent accidents from the local industrial facilities. Over half of the respondents reported health problems. Sulfur dioxide, the chemical detected by air monitors in the parish, is known to cause respiratory and other problems reported by those surveyed.

“This is an urgent situation. The Department of Health should be involved, the facilities should not be allowed to operate until they can assure people’s health is safeguarded,” said Anne Rolfes, Founding Director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade. “Air monitors have detected high levels of sulfur dioxide since before Hurricane Katrina, and residents have been complaining about emissions for 20 years.” In 2003 federal Judge Sarah Vance found ExxonMobil guilty of violating the Clean Air Act over 2,500 times, including emissions of sulfur dioxide.

The survey results released today detail that 70% of those surveyed smelled bad odors. Nine people sought medical attention for their symptoms. The health problems experienced are consistent with long running health problems in the parish from industrial emissions; the results from the Friday survey echo results from a Tulane University health survey conducted before Hurricane Katrina in which high levels of respiratory illness were detected.

Sixty reports from the parish have also been filed in the last six weeks to the on line iWitness Pollution Map. Complaints have recently increased due to accidents from ExxonMobil, Rain CII, Valero and a tank cleaning company started by Walter Boasso. On Friday, December 21st, a vapor cloud reportedly from Rain CII made ferry passengers sick. And on Sunday, January 20th, ExxonMobil’s Chalmette Refining spilled at least 30 barrels of oil all over the neighborhood.

The Department of Environmental Quality has increased its air monitoring and sent letters to the facilities involved, yet continues to state that the facilities are operating within their permits. “The bottom line is that people are sick,” said Ms. Rolfes. “Oil industry profits have a greater priority in this state than our health. The good news is that people in St. Bernard Parish are filing reports and speaking out.”

The Chalmette VISTA air monitor that has detected many of the sulfur dioxide violations was placed there in 2005 because of the work of the St. Bernard Citizens for Environmental Quality and its long time, outspoken President Ken Ford. Many of the group’s members left the parish after Hurricane Katrina because of pollution.

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The Louisiana Bucket Brigade is an environmental health and justice organization supporting neighborhoods’ use of grassroots action to create informed, sustainable communities free from industrial pollution.