Following Release from Mossville Environmental Action Now (MEAN):
Although Axiall corporate and local government officials announced the "all clear" for Friday's fire at the Axiall plant in Westlake, Louisiana, nearby residents say that the toxic smoke from the fire was overwhelming, threatening, and that contamination in the community goes beyond short term smoke in the area.
"There was minimal communication with the community; an alarm sounded about an hour after we heard the explosion, we had to call to learn we must 'shelter in place.' We know that at least 12 people were sent to the hospital. I now, understand why Interstate 10 was closed, the toxic cloud was headed directly towards Mossville," said Dorothy Felix from Mossville Environmental Action Now (MEAN). "At least three schools were locked down, and were told to 'shelter in place.' While authorities only report on short term effects, these chemicals may also cause lasting harm to our community, and no one is measuring that. We may never know about health and well being of the workers there based on the limited way they communicate with neighboring communities."
The Axiall corporation reported that "unknown amounts" of EDC Dichloroethane, Hydrochloric acid and vinyl chloride were released.
"Dichloroethane has been found in previously in the Mossville area in drinking water, and those exposed long term have higher rates of cancer. U.S. EPA reports liver damage from long term impacts from vinyl chloride, as well as respiratory and nervous system impacts from short term exposure," explains Wilma Subra, PhD, a chemist who has been investigating chemical exposures in the area.
Michele Roberts co-coordinator with the Environmental Justice and Health Alliance added, "Yesterday, December 20, 2013, the Federal interagency working group overseeing the implementation of President Obama's Executive Order 13650-Improving Chemical Safety and Security, issued a report that failed to include any strategy for strong policy that would create regulations, guidance, and standards that would prevent these types of ongoing chemical disasters. These are not 'accidents,' they are preventable, and corporations must be held accountable – especially along Louisiana's notorious cancer alley, also known as Louisiana's oil, gas, and chemical corridor where people are sick and suffering."
"We have called upon the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Labor (OSHA), and the U.S. EPA, as well as Louisiana state agencies, to come forward and take responsibility to protect people from chemical disasters, and this explosion shows that people are still exposed and being hurt by lack of government oversight and corporate accountability," said Richard Moore, co-coordinator of Environmental Justice and Health Alliance, and former chair of the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. "We demand that federal and state government come forward now to protect communities and workers from toxic chemical disasters."
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States (OAS) ruled in favor of admitting a human rights complaint filed by Advocates for Environmental Human Rights (AEHR) on behalf of people living in Mossville, Louisiana due to previous explosions and chemical contamination such as what happened Friday.