Mossville eyed as Superfund site

by Mary Tutwiler

Residents of Mossville, La., say they have been sickened for decades by the emissions from chemical plants. Located on the western edge of Lake Charles, 14 chemical plants belch plumes into the air and discharge into the water, and residents and health care workers say there is a connection between the high incidence of health problems and the emissions from the plants.

"The community of Mossville has been heavily impacted by the industrial facilities in their neighborhood for many many years," says chemist and environmental consultant Wilma Subra, owner of Subra Co. in New Iberia. Subra has been consulting with Mossville residents since the 1970s. "I prepared a report that compares the health impacts experienced by the community and how those health impacts are related to the chemicals that are being released by the industrial facilities, and also being detected in the air by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality's ambient air monitoring system."

Today, CNN posted a preliminary interview on its Web site as health reporter Dr. Sanjay Gupta talks to Mossville residents about their problems. After years of frustration by locals, the EPA is exploring whether Mossville qualifies as a Superfund site, one of the most polluted sites in the nation. If so, the designation would bring federal monies for clean-up.

Another aspect of the story is environmental justice. The community was founded by African-Americans in the 1790s, says CNN, and current residents, who are overwhelming African-American, are asking to be relocated, and for health care. "African Americans are more than 79 percent more likely to live in communities where there are dangerous facilities that pose health threats," Robert Bullard, director of the Environmental Justice Resource Center at Clark Atlanta University, told CNN.

The EPA has already relocated half the community, says Subra, because of groundwater plumes under their homes. "But the people who you see in the story are the ones that have not been relocated," Subra says.

The entire story will be aired March 20, 7 p.m. CT, on CNN.