For over a decade, residents of the small town of Mossville, Louisiana, have been reporting numerous cases of premature death, disease and cancer. A new plot by a large chemical plant looks to finish them off, paying 80 percent or more of the residents to leave the town, which could nearly wipe Mossville off the map.
Residents of the community have long suspected the causes behind the community’s deteriorating health situation, pointing to the 14 chemical plants that surround their town.
“I got cancer. My dad had cancer. In fact, he died of cancer. It’s a lot of people in this area who died of cancer,” says Herman Singleton Jr., 51, who has lost two uncles and an aunt to cancer.
Fellow resident Debra Ramirez said her sister died of a rare inflammatory disease called sarcoidosis.
They aren’t the only ones.
14 chemical plants destroying the health of nearby Mossville, Louisiana, residents
The town consists of about 375 homes, occupied primarily by about 500 African American residents.
According to the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory, these 14 chemical plants release thousands of pounds of carcinogens, such as benzene and vinyl chloride, near Mossville each year, filling the air and soil with inflammatory toxins that can accumulate in the tissues of people.
One resident, Dorothy Felix, belongs to a local environmental group that has asked the government to intervene for health reasons, but shuttering the plants and initiating cleanup efforts is a hard concept to bear. The very serious and humbling reality of the situation is hard to confess.
At one point, residents appealed to an international court, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. A 2002 documentary, Blue Vinyl, highlights the town’s dilemma, showing the toxic consequences of the chemical manufacturing plants. Even evidence can’t persuade official action. According to a 1998 study by the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, the blood of 28 Mossville residents was tested and contained dioxin levels three times higher than the national average. Follow-up blood tests in 2001 showed similar results, reaffirming how dangerous these plants are based on their proximity, as the byproducts penetrate residents’ cells and accumulate. The town has basically been a horrid science experiment, as many have died off or come down seriously ill in the past decade.
New chemical plant to wipe small Louisiana town off the map
While the Mossville residents look for help, a newer, larger chemical plant is making preparations to take over the town. The new 21-billion-dollar project, initiated by a South African chemical giant named Sasol, is set to overtake the region, which could ultimately wipe Mossville off the map.
Supported by $2 billion in state incentives, the chemical plant is set to buy out 80 percent of those still living in the region. The chemical plant, which is expected to be the largest in the Western Hemisphere, is estimated to bring in $46.2 billion in economic benefits in the first year, providing new jobs and opportunities.
But many residents of the Mossville community are at odds with the takeover, even though their homes are set to be bought off at 160 percent of appraised value. They are especially angry to see their town be seized at the hands of a chemical plant.
New plant estimated to pump out an astonishing 10 million cubic tons of greenhouse gases yearly
While many business leaders and politicians welcome the plant due to its economic potential, the income potential doesn’t justify the environmental and health damages that will surely be hammered out into the people in coming years. An analysis conducted by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) in February 2014 stated that the chemical plant “will result in significant net emissions increases,” which will include greenhouse gases, promethium, sulfur oxide, nitric oxide and carbon monoxide.
The analysis estimates that the new plant alone will add more than 10 million cubic tons of greenhouse gases per year to the atmosphere. An Exxon-Mobil refinery only puts out a little over half that amount. So the negative impact to the air quality of the entire region may be compromised to extents unimaginable.
But that probably won’t stop the project from going forward, as SASOL has cleared requirements set by the Clean Air and Clean Water acts. Now the facility waits to be erected on three square miles near Mossville, as residents prepare to be forced out in a massive buyoff.
“That’s the thing that hurts,” says Dorothy Felix, a seventh-generation Mossville resident and community activist. “I’m going to leave all of this behind, a place that I love so much, a place that I grew up, a place that I saw go from rags to riches. Now it’s about to go to nothing but the plants.”
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