T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History
Real and potential dangers of living close to the industries in Mossville
Arthur Kenneth Lee by Chelsea Arseneault , 2015.
ARTHUR KENNETH LEE: It’s kind of farfetched [a terrorist attack]. But hey, man, nothing today . . . I could see anything trying to happen, or happening, with these people [ISIS]. That would be a great target, if they hit one of those industries here, because it would be a chain reaction. The government, or whatever you call it, security, it’s going to have to tighten up. And if you in there close by . . . We’re not really safe where we at here [in Moss Bluff]. But we’re much safer than we were in Mossville . . . from the leaks and . . . because there’ve been times that we had leaks and we had to stay in and the alarm went off, and you had to stay . . . what they call that? Shut in. Where you had to stay in your house and turn off all your . . .

CHELSEA ARSENEAULT: What plant was leaking?

LEE: Vista, Georgia Gulf . . . explosions. And I think PPG a couple of times, and . . .

ARSENEAULT: Was it ever Axiall?

LEE: Yeah, well, PPG that’s the old Axiall. It was PPG at that time. And since Axiall have had it, there have been a couple of incidents where they had a shelter in place. Because they had the big speakers throughout the community down there, and they would come on when they had something in the area. Conoco, Olin, or some of them would have a chemical leak, a train car derailment or something. They had a warning system and it helped.

Most of the wind comes out of the south and the southwest and everything. And the way Mossville was situated there, it was kind of fully almost surrounded by industry, some type of industry. Not all chemical, because the electrical thing was to the north and Citgo and Firestone, PPG, and all of that to the south. To the east you had Conoco and Georgia Gulf and old Sasol was Vista. And, you know, it was pretty well locked in. It [the buyout] gave me a chance to get out of the boat. You understand? My grandfather used to say, “You’ve got too much in the boat, sooner or later it’s going to run over. You’re going to have some spills. So if you get a chance to get out of there, get out of there.”

. . .

ARSENEAULT: So what would happen when the alarms went off?

LEE: Well, they would say shelter in place. A lot of times they shut all the traffic down coming through. Just depending on what kind of spill or release they had, how long or what. And there’s times they’ve shut the interstate down. Depending on which way the wind’s blowing, too, they’d shut the interstate down or you had to stay in your house and turn off all the . . . your air conditions and stuff because of the suction of . . . A lot of people got sick over it. You got caught in the wrong place. And if you in transit there and you’re passing by there and there’s chlorine, formalin or whatever the leak was, it’d get you. A lot of people had to go to the emergency rooms and stuff. But like they say, “Oh, it’s not that bad.” But if it’s bad enough to shut the interstate down, like he said. Grandfather used to say, “Too much of anything that kills will kill you.” If it kills something, too much of it will kill you.
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This project is a collaboration between the Imperial Calcasieu Museum and LSU Libraries to document the history of Mossville, a historic African American community in Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana.
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