Enviornmentalists say refineries are not ready for hurricane season: findings from Isaac

Enviornmentalists say refineries are not ready for hurricane season: findings from Isaac
Photo provided by staff
Weather Talk

POSTED: Tuesday, August 6, 2013 - 5:30pm

UPDATED: Tuesday, August 6, 2013 - 5:37pm

Hurricane season's in full swing. We need to be prepared and so do the many refineries and plants across the state, but environmentalists say some of them just aren’t.

Organizations like the Louisiana Bucket Brigade that work with communities around refineries found in their report, plants in our state did not inform communities of chemical or toxin exposure during Hurricane Isaac.

"They should tell everyone to evacuate the community because it's safety," said Peggy Hawkins.

Peggy Hawkins lives just one block from the third largest refinery in the nation, ExxonMobil. She says if there's ever a health threat especially during a hurricane, she wants to know.

"They should have informed with us the people in the community."

Refineries across the state are faced with many challenges when a hurricane hits, such as Isaac, with such short warning, there wasn't much time to prepare.

"Isaac was only a Category 1 but caused significant damage throughout the lower Louisiana region," said the Bucket Brigades, Faith Ashton.

But DEQ guides these plants during natural disasters to make sure they are ready.

"DEQ has both pre event and post event phone calls with the facilities to ensure that they feel as if they are prepared to handle the event," said Bucket Brigades, Andy Zellinger.

Ultimately, it's the refineries decision on what to do when a storm hits.

"Motiva Norco did not shut down and you can see a drastic difference no pollution from where Valero reported and 120 tons of pollution from Motiva next to it," noted Zellinger.

According to a report from the bucket brigade they say those plants that didn't close--put the health of the public and the workers at risk.

"We are all prepared for storm and the refiners should also be prepared,” stated Zellinger. “They have plans but don't necessarily execute the plans. Were encouraging them to no longer gamble with the states health."

Hawkins says after living by a refinery for years, she wishes the plant would just close during a natural disaster.

“That makes me feel kind of bad because the chemicals are very bad in this area. You come outside and you smell like chemicals, make you sick you know," noted Hawkins.

DEQ is currently reviewing the brigades whole report and will verify the facts when their done.
In a response to the Brigades report they said:

DEQ works with industry after each event to determine what issues occurred and to aggressively determine the best ways to address these issues. Each hurricane event is unique and although there are no regulations that require plants to shut down at a pre determined level, DEQ contacts the facilities in the storm’s path prior to the event. DEQ checks on their preparedness, addresses previous issues from former events and offers assistance.

Hurricane Isaac, while classified as a Category 1 hurricane, was a significant rain event and that posed a unique set of problems. Isaac has caused the National Weather Service to reconsider its methods for assessing hurricanes. Instead of using only wind to classify storms, they are looking at a risk based approach.

DEQ is reviewing the report and will have comments on accuracy and specifics when that review is completed.

For more information, click here.

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