The Louisiana Bucket Brigade

IMG_2574My encounter with the Louisiana Bucket Brigade led to my rude awakening to how regulators and institutions, which the public is supposed to trust, can blatantly lie to cover the horrible truth in an attempt to avoid responsibility for the repercussions of their actions. The specific incident Kellen, who paid us Riders for the Future a visit to inform us about the Bucket Brigade, enlightened us on occurred last summer of 2012. A report of a 10 pound release of benzene (a known human carcinogen) from the Baton Rouge ExxonMobil facility was filed. Further investigations by the Louisiana Bucket Brigade uncovered the actual amount released: 28,000 pounds. I was in shock. Not only because 10 pounds of benzene was already a dangerous amount for humans to be exposed to but because if the Louisiana Bucket Brigade hadn’t pushed the EPA to investigate further, the truth may never have been uncovered. The impacts of the release would’ve only been felt and haunted daily by the individuals inhabiting fenceline communities (communities within 2 miles of a refinery).

Kellan also told us about The Louisiana Bucket Brigade’s iWitness Pollution Map, which provides a channel for anybody in Louisiania to report pollution from chemical accidents, oil spills etc. A report generally consists of health effects, description of smell, location and wind direction. Individuals can access all previous reports submitted and the scale of pollution in a region can be measured. Another service by the Louisiana Bucket Brigade is the Rapid Response Team, which have partnered with the coast guard. If a huge impact occurs from a refinery accident, the team conducts informal health surveys throughout the community. Then they can provide a claim number for individuals affected to call and request reimbursement for medical expenses. The Louisiana Bucket Brigade appears to me, to service the communities by providing a forum for individuals to make accurate reports of pollution impacts, which are kept on record. Then the Brigade endeavors to figure out the source of these impacts, bringing attention to them and hold them accountable.

Eventually Kellan had to leave us. I am feel more comforted knowing of the Bucket Brigade’s existence, and I felt sharply, the importance of the duty I must fulfill this summer. Thank you Kellan, for pulling back the curtain and revealing the uncomfortable truth: the fenceline communities that suffer greatly rarely have the power or opportunity to change their situation. This truth motivates me to venture out and collect the individual accounts of the actual impacts of oil, gas and coal extraction on surrounding communities, and with these stories of truth that we carry from then on, to contribute to the movement against fossil fuel industries that fight for the environmental injustices. Hopefully our actions may lead to the alleviation of these individuals struggles and pain.

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-Daphne Chang

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