PASCAGOULA, Miss. (WLOX) - Residents of the Cherokee Forest subdivision in Pascagoula have been on the receiving end of industrial pollution from their neighbors at Bayou Casotte Industrial Park for years.
Now, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) is planning to spend $500,000 to study whether a buffer zone will help those residents.
The project is one of 14 that has been funded through the RESTORE Act with money from the BP Oil Spill settlement fund.
The Cherokee Concerned citizens group and MDEQ have documented several kinds of air pollution caused by industry in the area that won’t be addressed with this project. Bayou Casotte Industrial Park that included VT Halter Marine and the Chevron Pascagoula refinery.
Barbara Weckesser formed Cherokee Concerned Citizens in 2014.
“I’m not opposed to a buffer zone because I think it is something that we would need, on a level that may help with some of the impact, but what I am opposed to within this is that won’t fix the problem.”
Cherokee Concerned Citizens has been documenting industrial pollution problems in their east Pascagoula neighborhood including benzene, sulfuric acid, sulfur, manganese and sandblasting overspray in addition to the industrial noise pollution.
A plan to put a physical buffer zone between the two areas may reduce noise pollution, but the group says that's not the whole problem.
“It has become a high health impact to us,” Weckesser said. “They need to know how much this area and this neighborhood has been impacted by industry. We’ve had lots of cancer deaths, we’ve had senior citizens who are very sick who won’t come out of their house anymore.”
Weckesser said she would welcome a buyout of her neighborhood to create a larger buffer between industry and the rest of Pascagoula to the west.
The group has enlisted the help of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality over the years, but Weckesser said they have been of limited help.
They have done a few tests, she said, "and they do come when we make a complaint.
"But to listen to really hear and to hear us loud and clear, I think they have dropped the ball. It’s like industry first, citizens second, and I think it should be the other way around. I think citizens should be heard first.
“Just like I told DEQ in Biloxi, it may not be your job to get us a buyout, but it is your job to provide clean air and water for me and I don’t have either one right now.”
A meeting will be held Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Pascagoula Senior Center to give citizens their first look at the proposal.