Cancer Alley

The Mississippi River’s record-breaking levels prompted the opening of the Spillways north of Baton Rouge and New Orleans this spring. As a result, the cities’ populations are out of danger and the petrochemical and oil industries based there have been protected. There was no disruption in production to further damage the national economy. With more extreme weather the vulnerability of such facilities throughout out the country is something to pay attention to .

The stretch along the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans has been called “The Petrochemical Corridor.” But in some quarters it’s also known as “Cancer Alley,” a reference to the many cases of cancer reported by communities on both sides of the Mississippi. There are disputes about the cancer statistics. Cases of certain rare cancers in children are above the national average, but according to The Louisiana Tumor Registry, the overall rate of cancer is not higher.

Louisiana gives generous tax breaks to industry and has a close relationship to oil companies brought to light during the BP oil spill crisis. Some say the Department of Environmental Quality has been acting in the interests of industry,too, instead of serving as a watchdog for the people it is meant to protect. . Along the same stretch of river is one of the National Oil Reserve locations as well as Waterford 3, a nuclear power plant serving the New Orleans area ,just yards from a levee. The tsunami in Japan that triggered a melt down at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant raises questions that reverberate in Louisiana. Are safety measures in place to protect plants from natural disasters as the 2011 hurricane season kicks off?
To see more images from this series click here to see a set on Flickr


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