St. James Parish residents living near chemical plants demand evacuation route

Residents in St. James Parish want a detailed plan in case a disaster occurs at any of their several chemical plants and refineries.

ST. JAMES PARISH, La -- It's a plea to St. James Parish to have an evacuation route in the event of a disaster in one community.

Sitting in front of the St. James Parish council Wednesday evening, Reverend Harry Joseph with Mt. Triumph Baptist Church spoke directly to leaders, asking them to come up with a concrete emergency plan for people living in the fifth district.

"If something happens in that area, they can't get out and they're just tired of the plants that are coming in," Reverend Joseph said.

Reverend Joseph handed a petition to council members with more than 400 signatures, calling for action. Lionel Nelson was one of several names on that list.

MORE: 'They are killing us': St. James residents near oil facilities voice health concerns

"I don't care how much money y'all gonna make on this or that, the safety of the people is my concern," Nelson said.

Last month, Eyewitness News spoke with people living in the area, where oil tanks and chemical industries surround their homes. Nelson worries about the impact they're having on their health, not only because the plants are nearby, but many residents can't afford to just pick up and leave in the event of a disaster, such as a plant explosion.

"The concerns are for the sick and shut in. For those that can't drive. That don't drive. For those that are immobile," Nelson said. "We're talking and we're telling them our concerns and seems like nobody is willing to do anything or say anything about it."

St. James Parish President Timmy Roussel tells Eyewitness News it's not that they haven't addressed the issue, but says many of their initial plans for an evacuation route  never made it through.

"We had two different plans. Of course we had one industry bought up that property so we couldn't make it through there," Roussel said.

A second option also fizzled out after a land owner changed his mind, leaving an emergency route in limbo.

"We're looking for more property, another route ... where we can use one of those roadways or lanes or streets and of course extend it to 3127 Highway in case of a bad event," Roussel said.

In the meantime, Roussel is asking residents to remain patient until a solution is found.

"Look, we will work hard to continue to get that evacuation route. We're not going to just give up. We're not going to forget about them," Roussel said.

"We need to have something done and we need to have something done right away," Nelson said.

Reverend Joseph also says he is worried about the Bayou Bridge Pipeline potentially coming into their neighborhood. Joseph says that's the last thing they want to see and feel it'll just add to their burden.

© 2017 WWL-TV


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