As a result of Murphy Oil Refinery's 25,000 barrel crude oil spill in St. Bernard Parish during Hurricane Katrina, returning members of St. Bernard Parish face environmental hazards that pose immediate and long-term threats to both human health and ecosystem integrity. Through a partnership with the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, an environmental justice 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, this masters project conducted community-based participatory research with community members in St. Bernard Parish. On a preliminary information-gathering trip to the Parish, the group learned that residents were frustrated with absent or conflicting information regarding contamination and the risk involved in returning to their homes. On this trip, the project group assisted with a citizen soil sampling event to help people assess contamination on their individual properties. Upon returning to Ann Arbor, the group developed a survey that sought to determine what information people were receiving about potential health risks from the oil spill, and to identify additional information that residents desired. The survey results informed the creation of a citizen's handbook that attempts to fill information gaps regarding the spill's implications for environmental and public health in the Parish. Though this handbook focuses on health implications for Parish residents, it will also aim to serve as a model for other regions with contamination and risk mitigation concerns. It is directed toward a diverse audience, including Gulf Coast ecologists, Public Health officials, St. Bernard's Planning and Zoning Department and other local public agencies, and local impacted residents and other interested individuals. This spring, the group will return to the Parish to present their survey results and disseminate the handbook.
Katherine Foo, MLA/MS Landscape Architecture and Sustainable Systems
Heather Gott, JD/MS Resource Policy and Behavior
Meredith Haamen, MS Resource Ecology Management
Suzanne Perry, MS/MPH Resource Policy and Behavior/Public Health