Hurricane Ida just wreaked havoc on my state, as I experienced firsthand last week. However, I didn’t find out about what happened in Norco, LA, until recently. In Norco, there’s a Shell refinery that was left spewing toxic chemicals into the air. Honestly, this isn’t surprising. Hurricane Ida made landfall last as a category 4 storm, and left many of us without power. I’m one of the lucky ones who got my power back on Thursday, but there are many still without power and even without water. Add into the mix some toxic air and you have a recipe for another disaster.
The Guardian reported that the US Coast Guard received 17 calls about air released, and some of these calls were multiple reports of ammonia that was released into the air due to the flares being blown out by the storm. The article also noted that the amount of pollution is still unknown due to the phone lines being down in many areas of the state. Last Monday, all communications went down for Baton Rouge (unless you had Verizon) and I couldn’t even text or make phone calls for around 14 hours or so — much less get online.
According to an EPA report, there were a total of 17 state monitoring sites that stopped working due to the power outages from Ida. The one in Norco was one of these and it stopped after Ida came through. In St. James Parish, where many still have no power or generators to power their homes, residents are a bit upset with the Nucor steel plant. Recently, the plant was caught pumping cancer-causing sulphuric acid mist and hydrogen sulfide into the atmosphere for six years without a permit.
The company reported a $33.7 billion profit in July yet only offered residents small bottles of water and a pack of Gatorade. The company also said that they offered two food handouts and that it was “actively donating supplies and support to help the community.”
You would think with those billions in profits that they could donate generators and fuel for residents who have no power. When asked if the plant sustained any damage during the storm, the company declined to comment. The Guardian also asked questions about the plant’s emissions, and the company declined to answer those.
Oil Spill In The Gulf
The New York Times reported that satellite images found an oil spill in the Gulf after Ida. The images showed oil spreading off the Louisiana coast near the space tech companies Planet Labs and Maxar Technologies. The oil slick spanned around 10 miles and was spreading into the coastal waters around two miles from Port Fourchon. The article noted that according to a source with direct knowledge of the cleanup, the amount of oil spilled into the Gulf wasn’t known. The spill could have come from an old pipeline that was no longer in use but was damaged by Ida as it raged through.
According to Lt. John Edwards of the U.S. Coast Guard, the crude oil might have come from an old pipeline owned by Talos Energy, which is based in Houston. Although Talos deployed a clean-up vessel, it declined to comment. Talos informed the Coast Guard that just 42 gallons of oil had been recovered from the water.
NPR reported that divers contracted by Talos were working yesterday to find the source of the oil spill. Lt. Edwards told NPR that Clean Gulf Associates is running skimmers to help pick up spilled oil from the water and mitigate any further environmental impact. The article noted that although Talos hired Clean Gulf Associates and the divers to find the source of the leak, Talos believes that it is not responsible. The Coast Guard doesn’t know where the oil could be coming from but a spokesperson praised Talos for its quick response.
“Talos took the initiative to respond to the pollution report and hired an oil spill response organization. However, the source of the product and the responsible party has not been determined yet,” Gabriel Wisdom, a Coast Guard spokesperson said. Experts think that the spill is far enough from the coast that it won’t cause immediate harm to the local habitats — they have time to remove the oil from the water.