New Orleans’ Gambit had an impressive editorial a little while back that outlined how the Dow Hahnville chemical leaks demonstrate the need for a more prevalent presence on the part of state government in overseeing the safety habits of such plants. The Gambit’s editorial staff writes
The first Dow leak also exposed communication gaps between emergency officials in St. Charles Parish and their counterparts in Orleans and Jefferson parishes, who said they were not notified until several hours after the event. The leak further revealed that too few residents have registered contact information with the St. Charles Parish emergency alert system. That’s a cautionary tale for all residents this hurricane season. Earlier, a power outage at Cytec caused the release of a toxic ammonia vapor, plant authorities say. West Bank residents reported eye and throat irritations before the company gave the all-clear signal.
Last week’s incidents raise public concerns about potential toxic ammonia leaks from a cold-storage warehouse the Port of New Orleans wants to build on the riverfront near the historic French Market. In addition to trying to keep 500 jobs in the city while raising $40 million for the project, officials at the port and New Orleans Cold Storage Inc. (NOCS) must now assure the public that 40,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia can be safely transported, stored and used to blast-freeze chicken packages on the Gov. Nicholls Street Wharf. The proposal has pitted French Quarter and Faubourg Marigny residents against port officials and business interests.
Unfortunately, the “frozen chicken” fight comes in the wake of a major environmental victory — the closing of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MR-GO). By the time the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers closed the manmade shipping channel to navigation — on Earth Day — it was difficult to find any opposition to the move. It’s been much harder to find leaders with a vision for offsetting the loss of 1,000 maritime-related jobs and other fallout from the closing of the MR-GO.