Cancer Alley Residents Stop New Chemical Plant From Opening

By Ayana Byrd Sep 09, 2019

The residents of Cancer Alley in Louisiana—who face the highest risk of cancer caused by toxic air anywhere in the United States—have secured a much-needed victory against corporate interests looking to further pollute their environment.

On Friday (September 6), China-based petrochemical company Wanhua Chemical announced that it withdrew its approved application to build a $1.25 billion plant in Convent, Louisiana. The plant was set to produce plastic for car parts, and The Guardian reports that the reversal was a reaction to an ongoing lawsuit and protests from local residents.

Cancer Alley is an area located between New Orleans and Baton Rouge that is home to 45,000 people and more than 150 chemical plants and refineries. African-American residents are more likely to live near these plants than their White counterparts. There are about 50 toxic chemicals in the air there, including benzene, 1,3-butadiene, formaldehyde, chloroprene and ethylene oxide.

Residents have formed grassroots environmental action groups to protest the facilities that dot the region and are associated with the high incidence of cancer and respiratory illnesses. One of those groups is Rise St. James, the community organization that successfully challenged Wanhua.

“My great-great-great-great-grandmother came out of slavery and bought my family’s land,” Rise St James member Barbara Washington told The Guardian. “Our hard work has paid off. We will not stop ’til all those industries who want to come in here change their plans. We are tired of being sick. We refuse to be sick any more. Don’t even try to come into St James. We will not allow it.”