"The people must come together now to stop this nightmare."

Bobby Jindal and the Corexit

Bobby Jindal and the Corexit
By Elizabeth Cook
How did Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, a state's rights advocate, react to the BP oil and the 1.84 million gallons of the toxic Corexit pouring into the Gulf of Mexico and state waters during the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster? Having largely escaped scrutiny during that time period, his record deserves a closer look.

Jindal, through Louisiana state officials, questioned early on the "trade-offs" the state was being asked to make, in terms of the use of the toxic dispersant Corexit on the BP oil, but it wasn't only BP that forced "trade-offs". Louisiana officials complained publicly and privately that there were too many unknowns concerning the effects of the toxic Corexit, but Jindal and state officials didn't bring all of their resources to bear when it came to protecting workers and residents from the toxic Corexit and oil mixture. In addition, the Louisiana Workforce Commission continued throughout the disaster, to actively recruit Louisiana residents to work the clean-up operations, despite Louisiana officials expressing concerns over chemical exposure for workers.

State officials appeared to shift gears as soon as the Macondo well was capped, focusing on seafood safety and marketing, and promotion of tourism, while appearing to downplay public health concerns. Long after the Macondo well was capped, Jindal and the state legislature had an opportunity to support two different resolutions to ban or severely limit the use of toxic dispersants. Both Jindal and the legislature failed to support the measures as they were defeated in the state legislature by a wide margin.

While BP has aggressively hyped in national media that all is well on the Gulf coast, a new report shows that 3 million pounds of oil was picked up in Louisiana alone the last several months, a number that has surged in 2013. Oil continues to drench the Louisiana wetlands and shows signs of increased toxicity from two oil components. The state is suing BP for damages accrued during the disaster...namely to wildlife, as illustrated in the original suit filed. Jindal allocated $10 million of a BP block grant fund of $25 million, to Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, and Caldwell hasn't been shy about outsourcing those funds and spreading the funds around to law firms friendly to the campaigns of Caldwell and Jindal.

The state of Louisiana lobbied hard for, and eventually got, $15 million for "behavioral health treatment", $48 million for a seafood testing program, and $30 million for tourism promotion. In an examination of press releases, it appears that at no time were BP federal funds requested by the Jindal administration for the treatment of workers and residents exposed to the oil and Corexit, with one exception, when Jindal signed an executive order to allow additional EMTs at oil disaster work sites.

At no time did the state warn the people of Louisiana to not work the oil disaster out of concern for the health and safety of those workers, even though state officials publicly expressed concern for chemical exposure for people and workers several times during the course of the oil disaster. Despite the concerns over chemical exposure for workers, the state lobbied aggressively for BP to hire Louisiana workers, so that workers wouldn't have to collect unemployment insurance.

At no time did state officials appear to reason that an unemployment check and adequate compensation by the state and federal government, in lieu of BP compensation, would have been preferable for workers, rather than the threat of chemical exposure working the clean-up operations.

Reporter Dahr Jamail with Al Jazeera, in a report from October 27, 2013, asked Jindal "what his state was doing to protect and safeguard people from chemical exposure". Jindal responded:

"Coastal residents and response workers will be compensated through the deal reached between the Plaintiff Steering Committee and BP. BP must follow through on making whole [properly compensating] impacted residents and workers who experienced or are still experiencing health impacts as a result of the spill."

The cap for health damages, under the plaintiff's settlement, is around $69,000. That amount of money doesn't begin to cover expenses related to toxic exposure for individuals and families.

"$69,000 is not going to make people whole. They are going to be in debt the rest of their lives", said Betty Doud, former resident of Grand Isle on the Louisiana coast, hard hit during the BP oil disaster. Ms.Doud has tested positive for the chemicals associated with the oil and Corexit, and some of her test results reveal she is in the high, 95th percentile on some of the chemicals. She spoke about the continuing difficulty in getting treatment for chemical exposure on the Gulf coast. "I'm not going to doctors because they won't treat us for chemical exposure. You are treated for symptoms, not for the real reason. I've seen my friends go in and out of the hospitals and they're dead anyway. I'll take my chances with holistic cures."
After an examination of state of Louisiana press releases from that time period, it is apparent that no clinics or hospitals were ever designated as the go to medical places for residents and oil disaster workers, as reports were coming in of sickness and illness from exposure.

According to the Government Accountability Project Whistleblower Investigation, published on April 19th, 2013, titled "Deadly Dispersants in the Gulf: Are Public Health and Environmental Tragedies the New Norm for Oil Spill Cleanups?", several whistleblowers for that report, who sought medical attention from state hospitals and clinics, were diagnosed with heat stress and other ailments and offered no treatment for toxic exposure (Part 1, Pages 46-48). The same report chronicled just one state doctor that appeared to accurately assess the risks to workers and residents from chemical exposure. The same report says this doctor was an "exception" (Part 1, Page 44).

Timeline of Events

In May of 2010, the state expressed strong reservations in letters to BP, and publicly, about the use of the toxic dispersant Corexit on the environment and health of citizens. A letter dated May 8th, 2010, from three Louisiana Secretaries of state departments is archived on emergency.la.gov. BP's response to the May 8th, 2010 letter, and a copy of one other letter, dated May 13th, 2010, addressed to BP, were obtained in a Freedom of Information request in the fall of 2012.
Here are just a few key points state officials posed to BP in the May 13th, 2010 letter to BP:
'While we do appreciate any steps being attempted to mitigate the impacts of this spill on our coast, we cannot simply concur with the tradeoff you are suggesting we make as it relates to our underwater wildlife without knowing what that tradeoff is...
...Some examples of words seemingly carefully chosen in your response gives us pause, and perhaps even demonstrate that our fragile wildlife area has become a laboratory for testing the use of these chemicals. For instance, statements like "...potential damage to the environment may be reduced by dispersing the oil in the water column..."; "...a level that is less likely to affect the environment..."; and "...human studies suggest that humans are relatively resistant...", without the science to back them up, are nothing more than educated guesses.'
On May 14th 2010, in an article published by WAFB of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Alan Levine, Secretary of Department of Health and Hospitals, expressed this about BP's decision to use the dispersant Corexit on the oil pouring into the Gulf: "We're now using one of the richest ecosystems in the world as basically a laboratory, and its not appropriate," Levine said.

In the same article, Louisiana Secretary Robert Barham sounded prophetic, expressing concerns that the application of dispersants in deepwater, thousands of feet deep in the Gulf, could prove harmful to the health of residents and business.

Both Levine and Barham, in the same article, foreshadowing the state's strategy down the road, report that the state was not planning to file a law suit to stop the use of the Corexit, but instead would plan a "seafood safety certification program" and have BP "foot the bill". Statements calling for funding of a seafood testing program were also made in the initial May 8 and May 13th, 2010 letters from the state to BP.

Barham sent his own letter, on May 18th, 2010, to David Rainey, Vice President of Gulf of Mexico Exploration for BP:

"The use of sub-sea dispersants to combat the effects of the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill on our coast is an action that I am not able to give my support to. While I understand the importance of mitigating the effects of this oil on our fragile wetlands to date, little or no substantive data has been provided to the state of Louisiana concerning the efficacy and risks associated with deep injection of dispersants."

In the meantime, concerns were growing over the safety of Louisiana fisher men, women and others working the oil disaster clean-up. In an "internal memo" that was widely publicized, OSHA Administrator David Michael wrote a letter of alarm to United States Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, the federal on scene coordinator of the BP oil disaster, on May 25, 2010, a letter that was made public, stating:

"I am writing to express OSHA's growing concern, over significant deficiencies in BP's oil spill response operations related to worker safety, and request your assistance in communicating these concerns to BP."

On May 26th, 2010, the Los Angeles Times published an article reporting illness from chemical exposure of oil spill workers. The article quoted then Congressman Charles Melancon as having written a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to provide treatment for the workers in clinics, paid for by BP. Sibelius opened a clinic in Venice, Louisiana, "in coordination with the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals", but the GAP Investigative Whistleblower Report says the clinic was staffed by a general practicioner, heavily guarded on a private, BP compound, "making it impossible for workers to anonymously seek medical assistance as some workers sought due to fears that they would be retaliated against for reporting health problems" (Part 1, Page 44, 46).

On May 29th, several Louisiana officials addressed a letter to then CEO of BP Tony Hayward, requesting $457 million for a seafood testing program. There is no record found, in Louisiana state press releases or articles, of any request from the state for monies for health services for workers and residents impacted from exposure to the oil and Corexit. State of Louisiana officials, and Jindal, refused to respond to questions for this article.

In a June 1st, 2010, in a Louisiana Environmental Action Network statement, fishermen reported threats of being fired if they wear respirators for protection from chemical exposure.

The Associated Press issued a report dated June 3rd, 2010, that workers were becoming ill from possible chemical exposure, and that adequate safety protection, such as respirators, were not being provided.

In the same report, it was stated that "dozens" of oil cleanup workers had "filed complaints with the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals" and "the Louisiana poison center and clinics and hospitals", according to a DHH spokeswoman, Olivia Watkins.

In a June 4th, 2010 report in the Wall Street Journal, OSHA Administrator David Michaels, in an interview said workers did not have to use respirators, citing test results as evidence the respirators weren't needed. Michaels now seemed to downplay concerns over BP's handling of safety issues:

'David Michaels, assistant secretary for the Department of Labor's OSHA, said in an interview Thursday that based on test results so far, cleanup workers are receiving "minimal" exposure to airborne toxins. OSHA will require that BP provide certain protective clothing, but not respirators...

...In his letter to Mr. Allen, Mr. Michaels had warned that if BP didn't take immediate steps, OSHA would have to move into "enforcement mode," which could result in fines for violating regulations. Mr. Michaels said Thursday that the improvements had prevented any need for enforcement action and OSHA is focusing on helping BP comply with existing regulations.'

On the same day as the Wall Street Journal's report, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals sent a letter to OSHA Administrator David Michaels, dated June 4th, 2010, calling on the agency to "conduct a full investigation of oil spill workers conditions and safety." The state also revealed in that letter that DHH had begun collecting data on oil spill worker illnesses and injuries.

On June 16th, Pro-Publica reported that the Louisiana state's tallies for oil spill workers illness exceeded that of BP's totals. On June 17th, 2010, Pro-Publica published a report citing concerns of Joseph Hughes, director of the worker training program with the National Institute of Health for Environmental Health Sciences, and Jimmy Guidry, Louisiana state health officer, that BP's four hour safety training program for Gulf oil spill workers fails to address critical issues, including "chemical inhalation, the health effects of dispersants, and the risks of direct contact with weathered, crude oil."

GAP Whistleblower Investigation Report has numerous interviews with men and women who worked the oil disaster, who reported that they were directly sprayed with the Corexit (Part 1, pages 14-18). These reports, all through the summer of 2010, were circulating through alternative media, blogs and facebook.

Despite the concerns over worker safety, the state of Louisiana continued to aggressively recruit Louisiana workers for the Vessel of Opportunity Program, the program designed to employ fishermen and their boats in cleanup operations. From the Louisiana emergency web site:

"BATON ROUGE (June 18, 2010) - In a letter to Doug Suttles, Chief Operating Officer of BP America, Inc., Louisiana Workforce Commission Executive Director Curt Eysink has requested BP immediately require all contractors and sub-contractors working for BP on oil spill efforts comply with a number of measures that ensure Louisiana workers are hired and trained for clean-up efforts in Louisiana."

The letter to Suttles contains the following statement:

"As the state agency responsible for workforce development and unemployment insurance for the people of Louisiana, the Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC) has a significant interest in ensuring that local, qualified labor is put to work and that our citizens continue to be able to earn a living and not have to rely on unemployment insurance benefits."

In the midst of growing concerns for the safety and health of Louisiana oil spill workers and residents, Jindal had begun to lobby hard for an end to the moratorium on drilling, claiming significant economic losses for the state. On June 21, 2010, Jindal and the state filed a brief in support of a suit for an injunction on the deepwater drilling moratorium. Even though the Macondo well had still not been capped, and the technology to cap it had not yet been implemented, Jindal chose to weigh in on economic considerations before the protection of the environment, and the coast itself, and the people who rely on fisheries one way or another. What wasn't being demanded was a recall of Louisiana oil spill workers until adequate safety measures and protections were implemented.

Just a day after the press release from Jindal on the brief filed to support an injunction on the deepwater drilling moratorium, a June 22-23, 2010 meeting organized by the Institute of Medicine, at the request of the U.S. Department of Health and Hospitals, was held in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Louisiana State Health Officer Jimmy Guidry at times appeared to downplay health concerns:

"And Guidry, Louisiana's health department director, said hospital reports so far show no increase in asthma or other respiratory ailments."

Guidry also said this:

"There are a lot of unknowns," says Jimmy Guidry, Louisiana state health officer. "This is more than a spill. This is ongoing leakage of a chemical, and adding chemicals to stop the chemicals. We're feeling like we're in a research lab."

Despite that ominous statement by Guidry, Jindal and state of Louisiana officials reopened 86 percent of recreational fishing areas on the Louisiana coast on July 14th, 2010, with a ceremony to celebrate the reopening on Grand Isle, July 16th, 2010.

On July 29th, the state renewed its request for funding from BP for mental health services for its residents, in a letter to Frank Hernandez, Vice President of Government and Public Affairs for BP America Inc. Research of the mental health effects of the Exxon Valdez oil spill that occurred in 1989 in Alaska, was cited as evidence of the need for the funding. There was no mention of the harm that had been done to coastal Louisiana workers, residents or the environment, from the use of Corexit in that letter. In citing the research of the Exxon Valdez spill, even though the Exxon Valdez spill saw one of the largest uses of Corexit in the history of the country prior to the BP oil disaster, with attendant environmental and health tragedies in its wake, the dispersant issue was never mentioned in the state request for funding for mental health treatment of Louisiana workers and residents.

Sometime in August, after the capping of the Deepwater Horizon Well, the state utilized a video produced by Dr. LuAnn White PhD, Director of the Tulane Center for Applied Environmental Public Health, Department of Global Environmental Health Sciences, Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, on its Department of Health and Hospitals web site, that appeared to downplay the effects of the Corexit:

'The following presentation, "Gulf Oil Spill 2010: Public Health Aspects", is presented by LuAnn E. White, PhD, DABT Director, Tulane Center for Applied Environmental Health (CAEPH) , Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, in response to the public health crisis in the Gulf. The two-part presentation will provide relevant information regarding the Deep Water Horizon oil spill, dispersants and the impact on health as it relates to the citizens of Louisiana and the ecological system.'

Although the above description makes the statement, essentially, that there is, a "public health crisis in the Gulf", the video appears to downplay that crisis. From the video:

"In general, hydrocarbons have a low degree of toxicity to humans-- That means, it takes a large amount to cause adverse effects.-- Symptoms get better when removed from exposure. Dispersants are much like soap you would use to wash your dishes...Corexit...does not bioaccumulate in the food chain...Fish and shrimp will move out of contaminated areas."

Dr. LuAnn White did not respond to questions for this article.

"The state was on the right track with the letters early on," said Dr. Riki Ott, marine toxicologist and survivor of the Exxon Valdez spill, in in email recently. Dr. Ott is spearheading the "Making it Right for Real" campaign to ban toxic dispersants.

"Dr. LuAnn White used old science. She should have known better," said Ott after reviewing White's video.
Ott continues, "Human health impacts of crude oil were well-established PRE-BP disaster...
..The short-term symptoms are evidence of OVER-Exposure for the individual. It does NOT ONLY take a large amount to cause adverse effects"... (Dr. Ott's evaluation of Dr. LuAnn White video and statements can be found here.)

"Workers and people in coastal communities were exposed to oil-dispersant in the air for at least four months; likely thousands were exposed to dangerous acute to intermediate exposures and are at risk of health impacts."
"White is flat wrong in several instances," Ott said. "For example, we know from the Exxon Valdez OIl Spill that fish, mammals, etc. most certainly DO NOT move out of contaminated areas." "...for the EPA and White to make the claim that dispersants are like soap focuses on the less toxic compounds, not the toxic ones."

Two studies after the oil disaster, on crabs in the Gulf, and pelicans migrated to Minnesota, demonstrated the bioaccumulation of Corexit in the food chain.

On August 3rd, 2010, in a Los Angeles Times report, Jindal again reinforces the state's strategy: Jindal aggressively lobbies for funding from BP to scientifically demonstrate the safety of Louisiana's seafood products...no questions were expressed as to whether or not the products should be pushed so soon after the capping of the Macondo well:

'With some gulf waters reopening to commercial fishing, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and other state officials demanded Monday that BP fund a $173-million, long-term seafood safety and marketing plan that would include testing samples of shrimp, crab, oysters and fish each month in all coastal parishes.
‘ "The key to consumer confidence is comprehensive testing," Jindal said during a news conference on a steamy fishing dock in Venice, La. "We need to be able to demonstrate, based on hundreds of samples every month, that this continues to be the safest seafood you can get anywhere in the country, anywhere in the world." ‘

‘ "The future of this industry is in peril," the Louisiana officials wrote in a letter to BP executives, cited in that same Los Angeles Times report. "The image of oil and dispersants will be difficult to overcome without science to back up our claims." '

In another sign that the state of Louisiana's shifting tactics regarding chemical exposure to residents and workers, Jimmy Guidry, the Louisiana state health officer, in a report published in August, 2010 in volume 40 of The Nation's Health publication, seemed to downplay the risks of chemical exposure to residents, a reversal from some of his previous statements:

'While the department works to mitigate immediate health risks from oil exposure, the spill’s effect on mental well-being will likely linger the longest, Guidry said. “We’re trying to minimize the exposure, but we know (residents’) exposure to this is probably not much worse than in urban areas where cars are spewing out petroleum byproducts,” he told The Nation’s Health.'

Guidry also alluded bluntly to the lack of choice for those fisher folk working the disaster and risking exposure, saying “People want to help clean up, are willing to hire on to help and are then told that there’s risk involved. They have to choose to go without a paycheck or help clean up this oil. If I’m not wealthy, I don’t have much of a choice.” Certainly an alternative choice to working the oil spill and almost certain exposure was not lobbied for aggressively by the state of Louisiana.

In the same report, Guidry also encouraged people to come to the Louisiana coast to vacation and eat the seafood, foreshadowing an intense, BP funding marketing strategy to restore the reputation of Gulf seafood, and encourage vacationers, and residents, to utilize Louisiana waters for recreational purposes.

Dr. LuAnn White was also interviewed for the article. She was identified in the report as "works closely with the Louisiana health department":

“Fortunately, the state’s public health system is in full response mode, said White, who has a background in toxicology and works closely with the Louisiana health department...
..Expanding on the state’s current public health systems is at the root of much of the response effort, White said.”

No evidence was given as to just how the state's public health system had been expanded to meet the needs of the "response effort", other than White citing expanded working hours for state public health workers.

Guidry, in the same article, seemed to suggest a public health system overwhelmed with the crisis.

'State health officer Guidry noted that “there’s not much of an infrastructure in public health for a surge — it’s very difficult to protect people when we’re constantly dealing with crises.” '

In the midst of the "crisis", Guidry suggests that the solution is for vacationers to come to Louisiana and eat the seafood.

'Even though the state’s public health work force is working around the clock, Guidry said the best way to help is for people to bring their vacation money to Louisiana’s coast.
“There’s a lot of expertise here and you can put yourself at risk (helping) if you’re not properly trained,” he said. “The way to help is to come and support us economically — stay at our hotels, eat our seafood. We need that support.” '

A major expansion of the state's seafood promotion and marketing efforts was to begin when BP finally funded the efforts in December of 2010, to the tune of $48 million. Those promotional efforts continue today even in the face of oiled wetlands that aren't recovering, and massive amounts of tar balls littering Louisiana shores.

A resolution to ban dispersant use in state waters, SB97, unless the dispersants were "practically nontoxic", was introduced before the Louisiana legislature in June of 2011. Robert Sullivan, a native of Cameron Parish and resident of New Orleans had lobbied for the resolution and was at the state capital on the day it was voted down, with just 19 people voting for the measure. Clearly, Jindal and the legislature were not behind this resolution.

"I immediately left the senate chambers after the vote, and went downstairs to the lobby,” said Robert Sullivan in an interview recently. “There were numerous people in suits, male and female, high-fiving each other. It was shameful."

In April of 2013, a bill that would have made the use of toxic dispersants as a last resort in the event of an oil spill didn't make it out of a Louisiana senate environmental panel.

Corexit remains a primary choice of the oil industry's arsenal to combat oil spills.

The EPA’s Big Lie on the Gulf Coast

By Elizabeth Cook

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must be feeling worried. Rather than undertake new testing on Corexit, the dispersant dumped in the Gulf in huge quanities (and still being used according to eye witness reports),  the recent EPA report in its Science Matters Newsletter issue on May 1st, 2012 simply  reaffirms EPA reports from 2010 that the Corexit is “practically nontoxic”, and “slightly toxic”.  Why release a “report” that redundantly suggests the EPA’s testing in 2010 was right all along, without additional testing? Could it be that internally the EPA continues to feel the heat and grapple with their decisions to allow the widespread use of the Corexit dispersants?  Does the EPA feel the heat because health effects were included in the plaintiff’s settlement with BP, announced in March, 2012? The EPA must know that Corexit is still being used in the Gulf, as documented by numerous eye witnesses. Are they feeling that this “secret” could soon become a national issue?

Whatever their reason for such a non-report that offers no new information on Corexit, this demands a response from all concerned and free thinking people.  This report confirms what many have characterized as the flawed science that was used to justify the use of Corexit to begin with, a flawed science that utilizes protocols for testing that many independent scientists are critical of. 

The EPA’s report was released  two weeks before another report issued by a group of activists in Alabama, who had taken a documentary film crew out on the water near Perdido, Alabama, Wednesday, May 16th. Members of the the Alabama Oil Spill Coalition, and the documentary film crew, came upon what appeared to be a wave of dispersant washing into Arnica Bay. Numerous photographs were taken and an incident report was filed with the National Response Center, Incident report #1011719.
One participant in that boat excursion was treated by a local doctor for chemical exposure. Many of the participants report various symptoms:  persistent headaches, burning eyes, noses running, throat irritation. “Let’s just say it wasn’t the normal salt air” they were smelling, according to one participant. One person said she smelled something akin to “burnt crayons”.

Coincidentally, just days before, on May 5th, 2012, a large tar mat was disturbed by Army Corps of Engineers dredging in Perdido Pass. If, just if dispersants were applied to that large and spreading sheen from that oil mat, the dispersants could have drifted further inland into Arnica Bay, via Perdido Bay.

It was Susan Aarde, writing for nationofchange.org that first alerted the Gulf coast to the EPA’s new “report” on Corexit.  As Aarde points out, this EPA “report” flies in the face of the EPA’s own pre-spill data. Even Nalco’s own data sheet on Corexit 9500 recommends face filters, the size and type depending on the amount used. There were many reports from the Gulf of Vessel Of Opportunity Workers being refused the right to wear face filters. Marine toxicologist Susan Shaw said this about Corexit:

Though all dispersants are potentially dangerous when applied in such volumes, Corexit is particularly toxic. It contains petroleum solvents and a chemical that, when ingested, ruptures red blood cells and causes internal bleeding. It is also bioaccumulative, meaning its concentration intensifies as it moves up the food chain.

As Grist writerTom Phillpot pointed out early on in an article on May 6th, 2010, quoting the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) on the two types of Corexit used in the Gulf, Corexit 9500 has the potential to bioaccumulate in the environment.  The two types of Corexit used in the Gulf, 9500 and 9527A, have not been tested for their toxicity by Nalco. In addition, the MSDS indicate the substances  are deadly to marine, and potentially human life.

Phillpot says:

So, what’s in the stuff? According to their data sheets, both 9500 and 9527 are composed of three potentially hazardous substances. They share two in common, organic sulfonic acid salt and propylene glycol. In addition to those two, Corexit 9500 contains something called “Distillates, petroleum, hydrotreated light,” while Corexit 9527 contains 2-Butoxyethanol. Frustratingly, the sheets don’t give exact information about how much of the substances are in the dispersants; instead they give ranges as a percentage of weight. For example, Corexit 9500 can be composed of anywhere from 10 to 30 percent petroleum distillates, while 2-Butoxyethanol makes up anywhere from 30 to 60 percent of 9527.

This new “report” by the EPA defies the logic that has been established on the Gulf coast.  Health effects of the Corexit and Oil have been recognized and accepted by BP within the plaintiff’s settlement, something that did not occur, but should have, in the settlement of Exxon Valdez survivors. Essentially, the EPA has just told a big lie. It is clear that this report could potentially be used by BP, the EPA and apparently the U.S. Coast Guard to justify the continued use of Corexit on the northern Gulf waters.

You might be asking, why is Corexit still being used on Gulf waters? It was confirmed  on November 2, 2011, that a wave of oil that hit Horn Island off the coast of Mississippi was actually fresh oil from the Macondo well. Attorney Stuart Smith had the oil tested, and it was confirmed to be fresh oil. In addition, the non-profit preservation group On Wings of Care had photographed the Macondo well sight in August, 2011, and pictures reveal that oil continues to leak from the site.

We don’t know how much oil continues to seep from this “capped” well, and we don’t necessarily know why. It’s not a question that is being openly discussed by the state or the federal government.
NOAA had long since revised its estimates of how much oil is no longer in the Gulf in the wake of “recovery” efforts. Initially, in August of 2010, NOAA released the preposterous report on August 4th, 2010 that 50% of the oil was gone, due to evaporation, oil eating bacteria, skimming, burning, booming and recovery of the oil. Intelligent minds everywhere scoffed at this notion that a “spill” nearly 20 times the size of the Exxon Valdez had vanished after just 4 months. It took just two weeks for  the same NOAA official, Bill Lehr, to retract the earlier report, and completely reverse course: 75% of the “spilled” oil remains in the Gulf, he said August 19th, 2010, in a report to Congress.

That 75% of oil that leaked during the disaster, before the capping of the well, continues to rise, sometimes due to heating, at times stirred by manmade activity as in the recent dredging incident in Perdido Bay.

As Riki Ott determined in January of 2011, essentially the Gulf states signed away their rights when it comes to the spraying of Corexit in state waters.

It turns out that dispersants are not -- and never were -- explicitly banned within three miles of the coast or in less than ten meters of water (the "nearshore environment") as federal officials with the USCG, EPA, NOAA, and others staunchly maintained. The Coast Guard and states can approve dispersant use in the nearshore environment on a case-by-case basis across the Gulf if the incident commander decides the toxic chemicals were "expected to prevent or minimize substantial threat to the public health or welfare, or to mitigate or prevent environmental damage" -- a statement that appears in both of the official Regional Response Team dispersant policies. In fact, neither of the policies for Region IV (Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida) or Region VI (Louisiana) have any areas where dispersant use is expressly banned. Louisiana even has an expedited process for requests to spray dispersants in the nearshore environment.
Now one has to wonder about the arrogance of the EPA in releasing such a report. It is a kind of in your face challenge to all those families and individuals that have become ill on the coast due to exposure to the Corexit that makes the oil more toxic, not less. Is it the EPA’s Waterloo moment? We all have realized how much of a careerist Lisa Jackson is, willing to sacrifice her own people on the Gulf coast to the political expediency’s of the Obama administrations’ desire to remain friendly to industry. But this kind of report is verging on scandal. What is needed is for the activist community on the Gulf coast to rouse themselves, and push this demented carriage over the cliff. We need the help of the nation on this as well. Help send Lisa Jackson packing, and highlight for the world to see the willingness of our political class to collude with the corporate world to hide the real life damages they inflict on the lives of people with their poisonous products, such as Corexit.

Truth-Out Forum on the Gulf: Dr. Mike Robichaux and Friends


Dr. Mike Robichaux and Patient-Friends

Becky and Clayton Matherne of Raceland, Louisiana. Mr. Clayton has said that, without Dr. Mike, he“would be dead.”


Federal agencies (EPA, NOAA, the Coast Guard, the Presidential Commission) and state agencies (tourism, natural resources) have falsely distinguished medical from ecological concerns in their studies of the Gulf Oil Disaster, and they have regularly misled the public about both. As a result, fisherfolk have been plunged into debt and suffering, while positivistic-scientific pundits from government, corporate, and academic circles assert that no “data” conclusively connects the oil-with-dispersant mixture to human and animal symptoms. It is in our view actionable science to conclude there is a connection when healthy fishermen become incapacitated after only a few days in oil-with-dispersant waters
The Gulf has become a laboratory for environmental and occupational medicine. Dr. Mike Robichaux has abandoned neither science nor patients. The Social Justice Team of First Unitarian Universalist Church has sponsored Truth-Out Forums for the Gulf to supplant the inadequate media coverage. This is the Fourth Forum. See the others on YouTube under ‘’Truth-Out Forums for the Gulf’’”

Temple-Inland Executives Should Face Jail Time

by Elizabeth Cook

In a recent WWL-TV report, Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) administrator said that up until the recent dumping of black liquor into the Pearl River, Temple-Inland has been "good corporate citizens". DEQ has allowed the company to resume dumping, and production, on the Pearl River. How do we judge corporate criminals versus blue collar or low income criminals? Clearly, there are double standards in play.

That same WWL-TV report reiterates that Temple-Inland did not inform the state of the dumping of the black liquor into the Pearl River for four days after the start of the incident. This is criminal violation of regulations that are supposed to protect the health and safety of our river and marine life and the people who depend on them.

DEQ, in a recent report on their web site, cite additional safeguards that they are requiring of Temple-Inland to prevent an incident of this kind from happening again. However, when a company chooses to flagrantly violate federal and state laws and regulations, how do you prevent this?

It is unclear why Temple-Inland chose to dump massive amounts of black liquor into the Pearl River. It's retention ponds hold waste water, according to a WWL-TV report, and are impacted by excessive rain. Just where and how Temple-Inland deals with the byproduct of paper mill production, the black liquor, is unclear at this point, and has not been discussed publicly to my knowledge. It is my hope that residents of Louisiana take a strong interest in the Temple-Inland process of dealing with the black liquor, as this is critical to understanding and preventing future events of the magnitude that killed thousands of marine life in the Pearl River and sickened local residents.

It could be argued that the mill should remain closed, and possibly shut down for good. This kind of flagrant violation of federal and state regulations belies an arrogance and complete disregard for the community in which Temple-Inland is supposedly a "good corporate citizen".

This issue also underscores the difference in treatment of white collar criminals, and low income and middle class folks who have been charged with crimes. There is no forgiveness for people who rob convenience stores, banks, steal cars, resist police arrest, parade unruly, sell their wares without permits, etc. There is usually no discussion as to what a good person so and so was and therefore, fines should be assessed as opposed to jail time. Has anyone ever heard of a person who has robbed a home receiving fines instead of jail time?

DEQ and the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) has coddled corporate criminals and assisted them in concealing their crimes. DHH has done nothing to assist the fishermen and women, and residents of the Gulf coast whose health has been ruined by the use of Corexit on the BP oil disaster. By ignoring the health issues of her Gulf residents. essentially, the agency and state is cooperating in a cover-up. This is the definition of criminal. If corporate criminals should have jail time, so should government officials who assist those corporate criminals in concealing or downplaying their crimes.

Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN) has filed a "notice of intent" to file a civil lawsuit, and this is good news:

In response to the devastating aquatic organism kill in the Pearl River Basin caused by the discharge of pollution by the Temple Inland paper mill in Bogalusa, LA, LEAN has filed a Notice Of Intent to file a citizens suite against Temple Inland for failure to comply with their water pollution control permit, the Clean Water Act, Louisiana state law and violation of the Endangered Species Act.

But the issue of collusion between DEQ, the state of Louisiana and corporate polluters is an issue that is not necessarily to be solved in the courts. This is a political issue, deserving of much attention from activists and dissenters.

Officials with DEQ recently stated that the Pearl River was a disaster caused by "oxygen depletion", attempting to downplay the extent of the toxicity to the water caused by the massive dumping of the black liquor. Evidence of this toxicity is demonstrated in the deaths of turtles and sea otters. Both species do not breath the water, so oxygen depletion would not be a cause of their death. Yet Mike Wood with the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Department even hedged as to whether there were any deaths of sea otters and turtles as a result of this incident. The deaths of turtles was reported early on, so it remains to be seen whether this is an issue that can simply be ignored away. Loyola University Professor Bob Thomas, in a Fox 8 news report, had this to say about the deaths of turtles:

Loyola University’s Bob Thomas has monitored the Louisiana environment for decades, and he says the dead turtles in the river are of special concern.

“Turtles don't respire oxygen out of the water, they breathe air,” Thomas said.

He worries about the future of two turtles in particular, the Ringed Map Turtle, and the Pearl River Mapped Turtle, unique to that region.

“When they died, you knew there was toxics involved,” Thomas said.

The toxics in the ‘black-liquor’ discharge were so strong, that it killed turtles that don't filter water on contact. But Temple-Inland, the company that claimed responsibility for the chemical spill, is downplaying the toxicity of the discharge, which it says was caused by a 'process upset'.

The question should be asked: why would DEQ cooperate with Temple-Inland to downplay this incident as one of "oxygen depletion" rather than toxicity? If DEQ is attempting to manipulate the process to the benefit of Temple-Inland, to reduce their fines, penalties or threats of criminal sanctions by manipulating the assessment of the incident, this also is criminal and government officials should face intense scrutiny from the public that ought to be demanding full accountability from all those involved.

Independent scientists could play a role here and perform tests on those two species to determine the cause of their death. LEAN is conducting an important investigation of this ecological disaster, and have posted initial observations on their site. Results of tests of dead organisms in the river and water quality are being tested by LEAN and will be posted. It is unknown if LEAN is testing dead otters and turtles, but it is my hope that they are. At this point, the public should have little trust in any tests conducted by DEQ or other state agencies in this matter.

The public must become more adept at policing the environment that we are all dependent on, and demanding accountability for those in government responsible for protecting our environment. "Jail time" should be one of the rallying cries for the public and activists. Those government officials who look the other way while corporate marauders foul our natural resources and allow dangerous levels of toxins to affect the health of residents, should face jail time. Collusion between government and corporate entities is also a crime.

It is clear what crimes the political class truly hold as threatening: certainly not the discharge of toxic chemicals into a Louisiana river. Otherwise executives, for this purposeful and flagrant violation, would be facing hefty fines and jail time.

The meltdown of the American economy, orchestrated by the largest financial institutions in our country, has not seen a single CEO jailed, or facing criminal charges of fraud or malfeasance. Certainly it could be argued that our economy has been sabotaged by risky practices that saw profits and benefits for a select few at the expense of the many.

Clearly, crimes like the ones committed that fouled the Pearl River and the lives that depend on her, are crimes that corporations know will go largely, physically unpunished. I predict fines will be imposed, but for the most part, corporations view fines as a cost of doing business in America. Jail time would drastically increase that cost, and make these white collar criminals think twice before fouling an American or foreign ecological resource, and think twice before taking advantage of people within our economic system.

Temple-Inland Resumes Dumping in Pearl River

A Times Picayune article dated Saturday, August 27th, by Ron Thibodeaux, states that discharge from the Temple-Inland paper mill has already resumed at 1/10th of the "normal" rate, to alleviate possible emergency conditions if there is a "weather event".

DEQ, in the article, states that a "non-toxic red dye" will be used to track the discharge, and for the public not to be concerned about "red discoloration of the water" in the Pearl River.

A WWL TV report indicates that the discharge is waste water, and not the black liquor that caused the massive fish kill in the Pearl River. It is not stated in the report what chemicals, inorganic or organic matter that the waste water contains.

The news reports are different from the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) web site, report posted on its front page, stating that Temple-Inland will be allowed to commence production and dumping in the Pearl River not until Sunday, August 28th. According to the DEQ report, there are changes being implemented by Temple-Inland paper mill, that includes a "Community Advisory Committee":

The Mill will also form a Community Advisory Committee which will meet monthly to facilitate two way communication on issues important to citizens of the local parishes. The Mill representatives will include the Mill Manager, Environmental Manger and Human Resources Manager; community representatives will include local officials and community leaders.

It is not stated how the "community leaders" will be chosen, or if these committee meetings will be open to the public. According to the DEQ report, discharge levels will return to "normal" in 5 days. It is unclear if there is a new "normal" in terms of discharge levels, which previously permitted Temple-Inland to dump at the maximum, 37,000 lbs of black liquor waste water in the Pearl River a day.

DEQ describes extensive changes to Temple-Inland production and waste treatment process that includes increased temporary storage capacity for the black liquor waste, and increased ability to re-process:

Process improvements will include increased monitoring and collection of material for re-processing. Additional tank capacity (approximately 3,100,000 gallons) will be available for spill collection by using an existing production tank until a new tank can be built.

Kevin Davis, St. Tammany Parish President, stated recently that fishing and swimming possibly would be allowed again on the Pearl River "by the weekend", based on water testing reports. I have been unable to find reports as to whether fishing and swimming has been allowed again.

During the public hearing on Monday, August 22nd, the Temple-Inland President, was somewhat less than forthcoming. According to a Slidell Sentry news report on the hearing, Temple-Inland Vice-President of Government Affairs either evaded or refused to answer questions.

Richard Bennett, Temple Inland vice president, Government Affairs, did not explain exactly what happened, or when, to cause the fish kill on the Pearl River. Nor could he describe the reportedly detailed and near-implementation-ready plan to improve operations in the offending wastewater treatment plant, and he claimed not to know how much “black liquor” the company is permitted to legally discharge into the water on a regular basis.(Slidell Sentry, 8/23/11, Marcelle Hanemann and Erik Sanzenbach).

A number of concerns should be heeded regarding the proposed Citizen's Advisory Committee: who chooses the community leaders is an important issue. The public at large should have representation on this committee. In addition, the committee meetings should be open to the public and media, and meeting notices posted well in advance in the media and online.

Questions should be asked of DEQ: why weren't additional safeguards and means for recycling the black liquor implemented prior to the occurrence of this ecological disaster? In addition, will the changes proposed bring the plant up to date and comparable to other paper mills around the world that have reduced their pollution significantly? It has not been posted exactly what is contained in the waste water that is not the black liquor, that is currently being discharged by Temple-Inland. Reports from residents of illness as a result of contact with the Pearl River should be investigated and residents given full access to medical care. In addition, reports that residents experienced, on July 27th, seepage of black liquor into their yards and water pipes should be investigated, and residents compensated for any health and physical damages.

The Slidell Sentry article details the harm to the environment and potential fines associated with the destruction of endangered gulf species:

Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary Robert Barham called the incident “a horrendous event” that was “horrific for the environment,” and related it to last year’s BP spill.

“We lost tens of thousands of mussels, hundreds of thousands of fish of at least 26 species, including 24 gulf sturgeon, an endangered species,” Barham said. “That’s like losing 24 bald eagles. It’s extremely serious.” Barham said the US Wildlife Service was called in to “follow up with us on that.”

When asked if it is safe to go fishing, Morrell said, “According to DEQ safeguards, I’d probably wait a little longer.”

While the T-I penalties are not yet known, Sen. A.G. Crowe said that he’s heard that the taking of just one gulf sturgeon generally merits $50,000 and/or one year in prison.

Mike Wood of the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries said the Pearl River is the home of 100 fish species. The DWF preliminary count of fish shows that 26 species were affected by the discharge. He said some of the fish were darters, perch, catfish, paddlefish and the endangered Gulf Sturgeon. Stymiest said the parish collected 22 of the sturgeon. She said the penalty for killing the fish, which are on the Endangered Species List is a fine of $50,000 and/or a year in jail for each one killed.

Wood said there is still some question on whether turtles and otters were killed in the incident.

It was made clear from the beginning of this incident that turtles and otters were dying, and this was considered "unusual" in that they don't breath the water. Certainly these species come in contact with the water though, lending credence to an incident of chemical poisoning, and not just an incident of "oxygen depletion" as DEQ has suggested.

Analysis of the safeguards implemented by the company is needed by independent scientists to ascertain whether the plant is doing all that it can to reduce as much pollution from the paper mill as possible. In addition, it is important to monitor the fines and penalties so that they equal the crime.

Report from Bogalusa: Seething Anger and Illness on the Pearl River

Traveling on Louisiana Highway 21 to Bogalusa with Robert Sullivan for the August 22nd public hearing on the Pearl River poisoning had us delayed by the need for local police to detonate a barn with several sticks of decades old dynamite stored in it. The barn was close to the highway, so traffic was stopped both ways for about one half hour in the deepening twilight. A single large house stood close to the road filled with adults and children, all anticipating the explosion. We chatted with locals pulled over in their cars, some complaining bitterly about being held up. I muttered some complaints myself and pressed for information. One local woman said about 1000 people were hired to clean the dead fish out of the river, at $15 per hour. A loud “boom” suddenly rocked the country air, and we all jumped involuntarily. A large cloud of brown appeared just off the highway and the smell of sulfur hung in the air.

This was our rather surreal introduction to this paper mill country. I anticipated more surprises for the night.

That anticipation was soon acknowledged. I expected to find angry folks in Bogalusa as a result of a massive fish kill on the Pearl River. I also expected to find evidence of cover-up of this ecological crime. What I didn't expect to find was evidence that the “incident” that supposedly began last Tuesday, August 16th, actually may have begun July 27, perhaps even earlier.

An overflow crowd of about 200 residents and activists kept many of us in the lobby of the old, historical Bogalusa City Hall, listening to the “public hearing” by loud speakers. Residents of the area with very serious looks and shakes of the head in a disbelieving manner that their paradise, like the Gulf, had within days become a source of hell to them, stood quietly listening. I quickly realized that this “public hearing” was actually a parade of grandstanding local and state officials from Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) and Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), concerned but appearing somewhat helpless state legislators, and representatives of the Temple-Inland paper mill responsible for fouling Pearl River and surrounding tributaries doing their best to sound humble.

I have no idea who spoke, and there was no list of speakers offered. I heard some of the Temple-Inland statement, and the official appeared to be utilizing his local roots to sound a “good old boy” theme that he at least hoped would be disarming. I can tell you that the DHH official proclaimed that cancer alley is not about the chemicals that have been released into our air and water. It's about our lifestyle: smoking, eating the wrong foods, etc. What this had to do with the Pearl River incident, I don't know.

This same DHH official related the time line of events. Without hardly blinking an eye he recounted how it took 6 days from the start of the incident for DHH to declare a warning about Pearl River water quality. At the same time, this same DHH official declared they have heard no reports of rashes or other illnesses resulting from this chemical spill. Shades of BP.

He went on to speak for what seemed like forever, and ended with a statement that sure, they could do better. But its just so hard to have answers during such an emergency, he opined. “I've been doing this for thirty years”, he proclaimed. Thirty years too long, I thought. I remembered a comment from one angry resident online: so black, foamy water and thousands of dead fish just isn't enough evidence to make a rational decision to warn people from the water immediately, apparently.

Other officials spoke and it seemed like they would never get to the “public” part of this hearing. Apparently, their definition of public hearing is for the public to come and hear them speak. Over 150 cards were filled out by folks waiting to speak, but I wondered how many would wait out the windbags to speak their minds.

I began speaking to the people standing near me in the lobby, and quickly met folks who had become ill from exposure to the toxic waters of the Pearl River. One couple who fished the river on the Thursday after the supposed August 16th start of the incident said they are suffering from rashes, nausea and diarrhea, and have sought medical treatment. Another woman reported how her brother, who came in contact with the water during the incident, also is suffering from a rash “from his head to his toe”.

The incident apparently began on July 27th. I met an African American woman who was there to testify about the backup of the “black liquor” in the yard of the subsidized housing complex she lives in in Bogalusa on July 27th. She said she was made ill from exposure to the chemicals, and plans to seek treatment at a local hospital. The yard was literally bleeding this black liquor, she described. The black liquor also came up through the pipes of her neighbors that day in the complex. I met a mother and daughter who live in the same area and they reported the same issue: black liquor coming through the pipes and seeping in their yard, on the same day. I call it “black liquor”, because that is the term that is used to describe the waste water that is created in the production of pulp for paper. For every one ton of pulp, seven tons of black liquor is created. It is the black liquor that was dumped into the Pearl River, killing everything for miles downriver.

Processes have been developed to burn this black liquor for energy, so that paper mills can actually create their own energy. There are other uses for the black liquor as well. However, the Temple-Inland plant is apparently outdated, as it continues to use aeration ponds to treat the black liquor before dumping it into the Pearl River. I'm not sure if this company reclaims any of the black liquor for other uses. I do know that DEQ has said they have granted a permit to this company to dump as much as 37,000 pounds of black liquor a day into the Pearl River.

What I suspect happened on July 27th is that the containment ponds became overwhelmed with black liquor and rain water, and burst through their containment to overwhelm areas of Bogalusa's drinking water system, so that the foul liquid actually came through pipes, and seeped into yards. This was unreported in the news, but I'm sure the city knew. How do I know the city of Bogalusa knew of the problem? Because they cut the water off for several hours on July 27th. The woman living in subsidized housing said after the water was cut back on, it continued to come out of pipes black in her neighbor's apartment for several hours, until it finally cleared. She herself said her water was yellow coming out of the pipes. Apparently no warning was issued by the city to these residents. We don't know whether a report has been filed with DEQ. This incident warrants a freedom of information request of the city and state to see who knew what, when.

There are also rumors that the black liquor was purposefully dumped in larger than allowed quantities into the Pearl River last week, and that because of a mechanical malfunction, the process could not be stopped once started. This has not be confirmed of course or admitted. Company officials and DEQ are calling this an “accident”.

Louisiana had a large amount of rain in the month of July and early August because of a low system in the Gulf that literally sat on top of us for weeks. I suspect what happened is this rainwater overwhelmed the containment ponds at the paper mill. Rather than halt production, the company allowed this ecological disaster to unfold.

I heard at least two state legislators speak at the hearing, Senator A.J. Crowe and Senator Ben Nevers. Both asked good questions. Crowe asked what long term effects that folks would be looking at. Nevers brought up potential pollution of shallow drinking wells along the Pearl River. However, there was no follow-up when the DHH official gave the stock answers. Both senators thanked the DHH and other state officials for their efforts. I'm sure many in the room were thinking “what efforts” as that state agency waited a full 6 days to issue a water quality warning, allowing possibly hundreds of folks to be exposed to toxic chemicals in the water.

The DHH official claimed that there have been no reports of illnesses from exposure to the chemicals. The same official, calling the marine life of the Pearl River “seafood”, declared that the seafood was safe to eat, and that it had been "tested". He brought up the testing of seafood during the BP disaster, I suppose, as an analogy as to how careful the state is. He's opening a can of worms there. He said he would eat the "seafood" from the Pearl River. Very recently though in the Times Picayune, St. Tammany Parish President Kevin Davis, who has actually shown some good sense with the absence of good sense from other parties, said that residents should continue to stay away from the water and fish and other marine life in the water. He said the water is being tested, and results will be back towards the end of the month.

The black liquor is toxic to marine life according to articles I read online, despite the DEQ's proclamation in the news recently that this was not an incident of chemical toxicity, but one of oxygen deprivation that killed the large numbers of fish. The DEQ is being cagey here in that toxic chemicals in water can cause bacteria outbreaks that deprive a body of water oxygen, killing the life in it. Today there were reports on WWL TV that crabbers in Lake Borgne, which the Pearl River empties into, are catching dead crabs. This is unusual, say the crabbers, and they are blaming the black liquor from the Pearl River poisoning. Jeff Dauzat with DEQ was interviewed, an official I ran into numerous times during the BP staged “open houses”. He always seemed a willing disseminator of BP propaganda on the safety of the Corexit. Dauzat said on the news that there is “no reason” to believe the dead crabs are related to the Pearl River poisoning. DEQ is threatening hefty fines against Tillman-Inland, so why downplay the incident? It is politically and possibly ideologically driven.

The crabbers rightly called for the testing of the water and crabs. “Prove it”, they said to Dauzat. John Lopez with the Lake Ponchartrain Basin Foundation said in a news report that they will test the water flowing into the Lake Borgne.

Chlorine and compounds of chlorine can be used in the bleaching of the pulp, and, depending on the process, poisonous dioxines can be released into the environment. I do not know at this time what process of bleaching is used by Temple-Inland. Sulfur dioxide can be released from the production of pulp, and is a major concern because of acid rain.

In addition, a variety of chemicals can be released into the air and water from paper mills, including:

carbon monoxide
nitrogen oxide
volatile organic compounds, chloroform.

I met a family at the hearing that lives behind the mill in Bogalusa, and the entire family suffers from chronic respiratory problems. The two year old daughter has chronic asthma.

I left early from the meeting. Ben Gordon stayed for the entire meeting which lasted until 11pm. Officials threatened to close the meeting, he said, at 9pm, but the public demanded to be heard. Everyone that had filled out a card was heard, he said, although the entire panel of officials did not stay for the entire hearing. I witnessed several members of the public leave early as well, during the “grandstanding” portion of the meeting that seemed to go on and on. Ben said the stock answer that was given after each person spoke is that there “will be an investigation”. With what we've heard already from DHH and DEQ, how can the public have any faith in these “investigations”?

This company is currently not a responsible member of the community, and the plant should be permanently shut down and its owners, after a real investigation, possibly jailed for criminal neglect, along with hefty fines. It is possible to fit paper mills with technology that significantly reduces pollution, from the short number of articles I have read on the issue. There is no reason for this paper mill to be operating in this manner, save for a lack of political will and enforcement by the Jindal administration.