Moss Lake: One Year After CITGO Oil Spill

June 19, 2006
Reported By: Lee Peck

For the most part life on Moss Lake has returned to normal. But resident Charlotte LaBarbera has not forgotten how CITGO's oil spill changed her way of life.

"We had a huge mess and a really fowl bad odor out here on our bank and under our wharfs and under all the wharfs," said LaBarbera.

LaBarbera recalls the snake like piles of absorbent boom on the waters edge, saturated with oil from the CITGO spill, as well as the unbearable odor that seemed to only get worse.

"When the odor was at its worse we couldn't go outside and there was one day when it was so strong that you could actually sort of smell it permeating into the house," recalled LaBarbera.

She began documenting the damage done by CITGO and taking pictures of the cleanup that shut the lake down for most of the summer.

LaBarbera says while everything appears clean on the surface today, she and other nearby residents are still concerned about what lies beneath. She says months after the cleanup phase was over, wakes from large barges and ships would bring oil residue from the bottom of the lake and nearby ship channel.

"It was really highly concentrated in the beginning, a lot almost every wake that came through brought forth a huge mess. And of course we know that's a good thing because it comes up and evaporates. And so that is part of the process of the environment and earth healing itself. But we also know there are large pockets of deposits that are still down there," said LaBarbera.

As she looks toward her industrial neighbors, LaBarbera hopes they have learned a lesson that could have easily been prevented. "This has been no picnic for CITGO by any stretch. This has hurt them tremendously and I believe that they would want to do anything and everything to make sure it doesn't happen again," said LaBarbera.

Believe it or not, something beautiful did come from the spill. While taking pictures LaBarbera managed to capture several shots of the oil spill and the formations it formed on the waters surface. The images were later shown in an art exhibit at the Old Lake Charles City Hall.