CHALMETTE, La.-- It's been more than 24 hours since people from Chalmette to Luling and from New Orleans to Marrero reported smelling a burnt-rubber or petroleum odor. The Coast Guard and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality are investigating, but now believe it could have emanated from the Exxon-Mobil Chalmette Refinery.
"I could definitely do without the smell, I can tell you that," said Peter Salvagio, who lives just a few blocks from the refinery. "I wonder what it's doing to my health."
The refinery did not return calls for comment, but the facility's manager was quoted in a statement released by the Coast Guard.
"We apologize to neighbors for any inconvenience this leak incident may have caused," said Chalmette Refining Manager Janet Matsushita. "The health and safety of neighbors, community and employees are our top priority."
A report filed with the National Response Center said the refinery released "waste water," but just how much or what chemicals may have been in it, was not listed.
"The most frequently reported symptoms were nausea, throat irritation, eye irritation, respiratory irritation and some headaches," said Anna Hrybyk of the environmental watchdog group Louisiana Bucket Brigade, which received 66 reports via their "iWitness Pollution Map" related to yesterday's smell.
They now want the Environmental Protection Agency to step in and take a closer look at the refinery and DEQ.
"Something must be done when you have these large population centers so close to these facilities and such hazardous chemicals that get released through these types of accidents," Hrybyk said.
The Bucket Brigade is deployed their own rapid response team to the West Bank to try and get a clearer picture of who may have been affected. In the meantime, the Coast Guard said their investigation continues.