COMMON DREAMS news source of October 19, 2014 reported: “Major Oil Spill Strikes LA” – Threatens water ways, wildlife in Caddo Parish.” THE WALL STREET JOURNAL was quoted in COMMON DREAMS, claiming the Sunoco Mid-Valley spill was perhaps the major oil mishap of the year in the US. Friends in Louisiana seemed to know nothing of the mishap in Caddo Parish, near the Texas border. The WSJ reported nearly 4,000 barrels of oil had poured from a ruptured Mid-Valley pipeline that comes from Longview, Texas and geographically takes a sharp left northward to Michigan.
The precise location of another oil spill in this state is near Mooresport, beyond Shreveport.
Martial B loves to photograph the beauties of nature in but is ready to “take dirty pictures” of incidents or locations where nature is under attack. Having worked in the “oil patch” he knows how devastating accidents can be to human and non-human beings.
Thursday, the 23rd of October we set out for what evolved into a 300-mile trek to see for ourselves what occurred in Caddo Parish. We failed in our mission but learned more about secrecy.
Just as we began our journey on I-49 north of Lafayette, a large tractor trailer loaded with pipes passed us.
In a serendipity mindset, we both wondered if the pipes were being rushed to Mooringsport for replacement of the pipeline that failed. If we simply followed that truck of pipes would we end up at the scene of failure and environmental cleanup? A passing photo was taken of the truck’s cargo. Rather than risk taking another picture while driving on a congested, dangerous road, we have mental images of the company (“ENERGY”??? corporation) written on the door of the tractor rushing pipes north at 70mph.
Later, a Google search indicated Sunoco, based in Marcus Hook, near Philadelphia had been purchased in a multi-billion dollar deal by a Texas-based corporation but with promises to maintain operations in the Marcus Hook area.
Martial and I had naïve ideas of driving to a small town of Wascom, LA then get directions from friendly residents at a grocery store or gas station directly to the spill site. How silly of us to think this way.
Near Shreveport, we pulled into the Otto gasoline station for fuel. To prove our total dependence upon fossil fuels, the two attendants told us the power was off. There were no lights in the station and pumps would not work without electricity. We drove on with less than a quarter tank of gas. There would not be much time for meandering around, burning gas while searching for the spill site. From earlier research we were told to go to Mooringsport and get directions there. Wary citizens seemed not to know much about the spill’s precise location. Eventually we came upon cardboard signs along the road: “SXL TRUCKS FOLLOW UNION STREET.” No GPS would lead to an oil spill that should be kept quiet. So we followed the newly fashioned signs along the road and came upon an area larger than a football field. It was bursting with OMI environmental services trucks and large dumpsters for detritus from the spill. The smell of oil was acrid. We saw workers with vests and hard hats. We found oil spill” GROUND ZERO.” Now all we had to do was seek permission for visiting the site of that spill, snap a few pictures and consider the mission accomplished. Haw foolish we were to think our request would be so easy. There were no police or security personnel at the cleanup site. A few photos of the grandiose display of equipment went without difficulty. Within minutes, three or four workers cautiously came up to inquire about our presence. Dragging one paralyzed leg on an uneven, newly cleared field would only lead me to a clumsy fall, so I remained in the car. I overheard Martial tell the curious workers “We are from an environmental magazine and just wanted to take a few pictures.” Nervous reactions appeared in their faces. We were told to wait until a supervisor was involved. A smiling woman wearing her hard hat approached to deter us from getting too inquisitive. The smell of oil could not be bottled as evidence to the gravity of their cleanup assignment.
I wondered where the truck carrying huge pipes had gone.
The friendly uniformed woman went to her operations van, made phone calls, fiddled with a computer for a few minutes, and then emerged with our final directives. “You will have to go to another town, only 29 miles away to speak with officials in the Command and Control center for permission to come here.”
In a peaceful bargaining moment about taking photos, the woman in authority said “pictures could be taken only from the road!” Such a concession would not reveal anything about the effort to deal with a colossal mess behind trees along the area (possibly several miles long) where oil was threatening everything.
The offer of driving another 29 miles in a totally new region was not very appealing to either of us. Sensing that we were not about to follow her suggestion, the woman in control said, “This is only for your protection. You need HAZMAT protection to enter this area.” What of non-human creatures? The workers we saw there were not fully protected either.
Martial and I left with only the smell of oil and photos of trucks on a large field where a struggle was being carried out by workers who risked their lives to clean up a big mess.
While driving about the impoverished area we saw what appeared to be three female turkeys along the roadside. How would they and other non-human creatures survive? Chief Seattle’s warning came to mind: “Let me warn – the white man is a destroyer, but someday soon, he will foul his own nest.”
Although we did not see the spot where oil is pouring into Caddo Parish, we passed a huge landfill, the size of a small mountain. It was not covered with soil and was an eyesore plus hazard to all living beings nearby.
The infamous Cerrell Report of the 1980’s advised city planners how dumping could be achieved under the following conditions:
*Go to a rural/agricultural area which is economically impoverished
*Find a region without much political unity or consciousness.
*Find a Catholic area.
Why Catholic? There is a feeling among the authors of the Cerrell Report that Catholics want to be redeemed “out of this world.”
That warped attitude may be strangely valid. People of some religious convictions, apart from strident non-violent Buddhism, are prone to harm Earth, endure the temporary suffering, and then escape to another world.
It appears that people struggling to survive economically are too exhausted to fight huge corporations that routinely trash our planet. Out of desperation struggling people will even seek employment with companies that rule our world economy. 51 of the top 100 global economic entities are corporations, not countries. Energy firms dominate the top ten. Scientists and climatologists are even joined by the mighty Pentagon (that consumes more oil than any other existing body in the world.) They are warning that climate change is a bigger threat than terrorism. The first Pentagon warning was issued in 2004.
Writers of the Cerrell Report will be saddened to hear of Pope Francis who intends to issue a letter to the world (encyclical) in 2015 on care of our environment.
Thomas Merton was the foremost spiritual writer of our 20th century. In 1968 he urged all of us to “Develop an environmental conscience – and fast.”
Workers near Caddo Parish must clean up the oil spill – and fast. If not, drinking water of several communities nearby will be ruined. Martial and I cannot share photos of the oil spill, nor do we want anyone to sample the toxic smell. Secrecy also reeks.