2 posts

Cause of Large Oil Refinery Flare-up

Upon crossing the Mississippi en-route to Mustard Seed Ministries, a large flare burned through the Louisiana sky.

While burning excess gases from oil production is a common theme in Southern California, I had never witnessed a flare of this magnitude and quite so close to ground level. Yet, this flare was relatively minute in comparison to the large off-gasing that occurred on March 10th.

To get the full story we visited Mark Schleifstein, Environmental Reporter at, formerly known as The Times Picayune. Mark explained that the source of the flare was the firm Chalmette Refining, LLC. According to Mark, the company claimed to have been performing routine maintenance when the large flare up occurred. In the midst of repairs, one of the compressors malfunctioned shutting down and shunting all gases to one of two emission stacks causing a large eruption of flames into the sky. While by law Chalmette is required to issue a report explaining what the cause of the flare was and what gases where release, the company has yet to do so. In the words of Mark Shchleifstein this behavior by the oil industry constitutes, “just another day in paradise” in Louisiana.

Link to article and footage of flare up.

Struggle of interagency resource management

Today we visited the Orleans Canal just below the sewage pumping station. Here we discussed the creation of the levee reinforcement flood wall that has been constructed along much of the canal. Yet, near the sewage pump station there is a break in the wall spanning approximately one hundred feet. This presents an obvious problem: if the reinforcement wall is meant to prevent flooding of surrounding houses, yet there is a large break in the chain, how exactly will this goal be achieved? One may also find themselves wondering: why invest time and money in creating an incomplete wall? The answer to the latter would be that the management of the sewage pump station believed that if the revetment wall was connected to the sewage treatment plant and a large storm occurred, the sewage treatment plant may be jeopardized resulting in contamination of the water within the canal.

Interestingly, when a storm event did occur this was not the location that was the cause of disaster. The gap between the levee revetment wall and sewage pump station allowed water to flow over the levee and onto the surrounding parkland as the storm surge passed resulting in minimal damage. It was further down the canal wall where failures occurred in several places wreaking havoc on surrounding homes.

It was here that we visited with grass roots organizer Sandy Rosenthal, creator of Sandy and her son created in the days following Hurricane Katrina to shed light on the tragedy at hand and more importantly to ask why? Why did the levees fail when max capacity had not been reached? Why was the local levee board to be blamed for the faulty Army Corps Of Engineers levee design. To this day, the Army Corps Of Engineers has not been found responsible. We are optimistic that in the future agencies that manage public resources will better cooperate to prevent the occurrence of large scale disasters. Sandy Rosenthal of