Monday, June 6, 2016

Mossville’s end

From:  Chemical & Engineering News 

By Rick Mullin
As Sasol’s huge petrochemical project lifts Southwest Louisiana, an environmental justice community dissolves in its shadow

Blessed by light rush hour traffic through Baton Rouge on a Thursday morning, I arrive 20 minutes early for an interview with Michael Hayes, vice president of public affairs for Sasol U.S. Mega Projects at the South African chemical firm’s offices in Westlake, La. This gives me more than enough time for a tour of the small town that is likely to dominate our discussion. I proceed across the tracks.

It has been a long drive from New Orleans, mostly along Route 10, a highway elevated for long stretches over swamp water. Crossing the bridge after Lake Charles, however, the landscape is suddenly dominated by refineries and petrochemical plants. I move through the 
outskirts of Westlake, driving one of the few passenger cars in a line of construction vehicles until I reach Old Spanish Trail, a road running away from the factories but parallel to a construction site. It becomes the main street through Mossville.

The prospect on both sides of the road is bleak. A handful of houses, some obviously abandoned, are interspersed with concrete slabs where others have been razed. Thin clusters of bare trees can be seen behind the buildings still standing. Past these, dust clouds rise around heavy machinery tearing at the earth.

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