Jonathan Henderson, Coastal Resiliency Organizer, Gulf Restoration Network, 504-525-1528 Ext. 211
David Manthos, Communications Director, SkyTruth, 304.885.4581
NEW REPORT: Hurricane Isaac Pollution Case Study
Gulf Coast Coal, Petrochemical Facilities Not Prepared for Hurricanes
Problems at coal, chemical and oil facilities, many of them preventable, resulted in extremely high levels of air and water pollution during and after Hurricane Isaac. The findings are released today in a new report – Lessons from Hurricane Isaac - researched and written by the Gulf Monitoring Consortium (GMC) as the region prepares for what is usually the most intense part of hurricane season.
“We all knew this hurricane was coming – it wasn't a surprise,” said Meredith Dowling, Gulf Program Director of Consortium member SouthWings. “Yet during post-storm overflights our volunteer pilots saw sheen on the floodwaters near refineries. Near coal terminals they spotted dark streaks cutting across farmland that appeared to be from coal contaminated runoff. Offshore and in coastal wetlands they found leaking and partially sunken petroleum infrastructure. At the Stolthaven chemical facility in Braithwaite, LA, derailed train cars and dislodged storage tanks were documented,” she continued. Oil found in the Gulf was from many sources, including the BP Disaster’s Deepwater Horizon.
At issue is the failure to properly prepare for storms. While many of the facilities cited the oft used “Act of God” in their pollution reports, the problems often resulted from the most basic failure to prepare. Motiva Refinery, for example, released 120 tons of air pollution because the refinery did not shut down its processes in advance of the storm. Neighboring refineries, however, did shut down and did not experience the same amounts of pollution. “The oil industry makes billions of dollars every year,” said Anne Rolfes, Founding Director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade. “Ordinary citizens are responsible, we get prepared. The oil, chemical and coal industries should, too.”
The total known burden from the storm is 12.9 million gallons of water pollution and 192 tons of air pollution. The information comes from facilities’ reports to the government.
Consortium member Gulf Restoration Network monitored the Gulf region for leaks from wells and damage to facilities, as well as legacy pollution from the BP disaster. "Louisiana has lost 1900 square miles of land--vital storm protection-- that can no longer be counted on to protect our communities and environment, much less the oil, gas, petrochemical, and other industrial infrastructure from storm surge and hurricane force winds. In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Isaac, it became crystal clear that companies are not taking the action necessary to safeguard their facilities. Furthermore, BP’s Macondo 252 oil resurfaced and re oiled beaches and wetlands,” said Jonathan Henderson, Coastal Resiliency Organizer for Gulf Restoration Network. “It is evident that areas once declared "clean" by BP are not clean and will need to be monitored and addressed for the foreseeable future. BP needs to be held fully accountable."
David Manthos, Communications Director for SkyTruth, said, "Satellites and other remote sensing technologies provide advanced warning of tropical weather events like Isaac, but they also testify to the pollution from storm damage and inadequate weather defenses.” Environmental regulations are the minimum standard to protect the health of communities and ecosystems surrounding facilities and infrastructure processing toxic substances.
Consortium members include SkyTruth, the Gulf Restoration Network, SouthWings, Lower Mississippi River Keeper, the Louisiana Bucket Brigade and the Waterkeeper Alliance.