Last Wednesday, April 6th, our Purple Air monitors showed large spikes in concentrations. That same day, residents of St. James parish confirmed, reporting a strong, foul odor wafting from the American Styrenics facility. Community leader Sharon Lavigne, and others, noticed a large flare from the facility's stack.
As black plumes and sharp smells continued, monitor readings climbed through the early morning hours and peeked at 10am. The following day, monitors stayed above 30/CM for roughly 18 hours. Anything above 12/CM is considered very high. Air monitors show orange all the way to the town of Wallace, roughly 20 miles away, due to high wings.
Yet, this is nothing new: for decades, the residents of St. James and the surrounding parishes have been able to smell the toxins released from flares nearly every day. While complaints from locals should trigger a response from the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ), the agency does not, in fact, respond very frequently to notices of concern. To make matters worse, local scientists have observed that, on average, most pollution happen between 2 and 5am, when residents are asleep and less likely to notice -- and report --strong odors. In rural areas, it is even more unlikely that there will be a sufficient number of comments to garner the agency's response.
How can we get LDEQ to take our concerns for our community's health seriously?
Between air monitoring and documenting first-hand observations, our goal is to capture how these spikes impact the community. Going forward, we plan to keep notes about what the wind speed and direction was at that point in time to corroborate the increase in concentrations. We hope to match concentrations on our Purple Air monitors to reports of large smoke plumes as well as strong odors from folks on the ground.
As our Purple Air monitors continue to capture spike in pollution, the Game Over Formosa team will be capturing and synthesizing this data, along with on-the-ground photos and anecdotes. In addition to reporting all of this to LDEQ, we will log and share it all here, on Public Lab. Finally, and crucially, we will share this information with the St. James community, through the grassroots organization RISE St. James. It is always important that those living closest to the facilities are aware of what is going on as often as possible. Stay tuned!
Learn more about the Americas Styrenix plant in St. James Parish here: