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

ST. JAMES PARISH, La. -- Residents living along Highway 70 and close to the Sunshine Bridge are worried about their health.

"They are killing us," Geraldine Mayho said.

The men and women living around the area said numerous plants and oil tanks surround their homes.

"We can't even come outside and breathe," St. James Parish resident Kevin Hunter said.

Hunter lives right behind NuStar Energy and just blocks away from other industries and companies. Hunter said many of the industries moved into town without the public's input.

"I found out when I started seeing the dust," said Hunter. "I didn't know nothing about no railroads. I didn't know nothing about building more tanks."

Hunter said living next door to these plants and oil tanks has been a headache, especially when the rain falls. After it rains, Hunter said he notices oily substances lurking in the puddles and water.

Reverend Harry Joseph with Mt. Triumph Baptist Church said many of the people in his congregation feel it is taking a toll on their health.

"I have one of my members, she could walk out of her house and she would have to take a day off of work because the allergies were that bad," Reverend Joseph said.

Geraldine Mayho has lived in the area since the 1960s. Not long after moving, Mayho said she began suffering health problems that continue to this day. Mayho wants to leave, but like many of her neighbors, she cannot afford to just pick up and go.

"We don't like the noise that we're hearing," she said. "We don't like the smells that we're smelling. It's always a different smell. Most of the time it's in the evening and then you hear knocking and you can't sleep."

Reverend Joseph only hopes the companies surrounding them and parish officials listen to their concerns.

"I think with our parish, we're looking at the money," Joseph said. "We're looking at what's coming into the parish. But they're not concerned about the people's health in this parish, and I think our health is more of a concern than anybody's dollar."

Joseph wants to stop plants from coming into his area. He plans on having a community health meeting March 20 at 6 p.m. at Mt. Triumph Baptist Church at 7159 Paul Nelson St, St. James, LA, 70086. Joseph hopes public officials will be there to hear their frustrations.

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