Pictures From Petroleum’s “Cancer Alley”

Overdrive 1

If Saturday’s drive through the wind farms of West Texas was a glimpse of one possible future, Sunday’s journey passed the oil refineries and chemical plants northwest of New Orleans — on a road known to environmentalists and many local residents as Cancer Alley — was a grim reminder of America’s past, present and potential fossil fuel future.

Norco, LA. View from credit union parking lot

Norco, LA. View from credit union parking lot

More than 125 companies operate in this area, extracting various chemicals from petroleum. Most of the compounds are highly toxic, and concerns here range from the dangers of chronic exposure through contaminated water and air pollution to the potential for a Bhopal-type disaster.

The concern over a catastrophic event is understandable looking at the remains of houses flattened by Hurricane Katrina a couple of miles to the east on Lake Pontchartrain.

The Smell of [Fill in the Blank]

Depending on who signs your paycheck, the many acrid smells that permeate these small communities are called either “the smell of money” or “the stench of death.” There’s no question that the industrial plants dotting the land here create jobs. But, at what price? And who foots the bill? And what alternatives exist?

Earlier in the day, heading down Interstate 49, I listened to a gospel church service on the radio. One line returns later while driving slowly up and down streets in Norco, looking at the clouds of waste rising from a plant.

“If you can’t get something the right way,” shouted the pastor, “it isn’t worth having.”

Norco, LA

Norco, LA

Random Pictures from Cancer Alley

School buses by the plant

School buses by the plant

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Chemical tanks

Chemical tanks

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Pipeline

Pipeline

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Traffic

Traffic


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