So let’s put it this way: We are building a Qatar on the Bayou. From whole cloth, companies are laying new cities of fertilizer plants, boron manufacturers, methanol terminals, polymer plants, ammonia factories and paper-finishing facilities. In computer renderings, the Sasol site looks like a fearsome, steel-fitted Angkor Wat.
Now the environmental website where the text of this article is preserved has added photos, links and commentary to recontextualize things a bit. But in its original form it was pretty clear this "Qatar on the Bayou" iteration was meant as a compliment. Understandably, not everyone takes it as such.
While the Sasol project described above has since been scaled back, the chemical boom in South Louisiana has nevertheless persisted... much to everyone's great excitement in St. James Parish.
CONVENT — Shouting "shut it down" on the front lawn of Mosaic Fertilizer's administrative office, a collection of St. James Parish residents, outside environmental activists and pastors called Wednesday for the state to close the Uncle Sam plant with its endangered lake of hazardous water threatening surrounding land and waterways.I've been watching this story all week and I'm still not sure if the "process water" threatens to contaminate the river if it slips loose. I only ask because I am concerned it might not be so great at cooling turbines.
Company officials and state regulators have been scrambling for several weeks to prevent a catastrophic release of more than 700 million gallons of the acidic process water held inside an enormous lake atop a 200-foot high pile of the company's waste byproduct outside Convent.
More to the point, though...
More pointedly, the local group Rise St. James and other activists urged the state to halt continued permitting of any new industrial operations in St. James Parish, like the $9.4 billion Formosa complex proposed across the Mississippi River in Welcome or the $1.2 billion Wanhua complex proposed across the street from the Mosaic waste pile.One could almost call it the Angkor Wat of gypsum if one wanted to keep the metaphor going. But why would we want to do that? It was all mixed up in the first place. The Angkor Wat is in Cambodia and we're trying to be Qatar.. right? Maybe we need to just stop.
"As Rise St. James and as the residents of St. James have said repeatedly, St. James is full, and nothing shows it more clearly than this facility that needs to be shut down now," said Anne Rolfes, director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade. "You can't handle what you got, don't bring in any more."
Gail Leboeuf, a Convent resident who grew up near the pile, said she watched the plant being built and watched the pile rise higher and higher through the years.