Flares a part of life in New Sarpy

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 13, 2002


NORCO – Black clouds of smoke, fiery glare and house-shaking rumbles are common for residents of Good Hope Street, adjoining the Motiva Refinery. Last week, a large, noisy flare disturbed several residents of the adjoining town.

Motiva spokesman Don Baker said the flares are allowed under the refinery’s permits from the state Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The flaring last week was a safety measure to bleed off pressure from the olefins unit, Baker said.

LDEQ spokesman Jim Friloux confirmed this, and said the plant is burning off organics from the process units, producing more carbon dioxide and smoke. Usually, it’s either brought on by a power glitch or a turnaround, but it is permitted.

“It’s annoying, and people assume there’s more pollution,” Friloux said Monday.

“It does bother me,” Joyce Huff said. She and her husband, Ken, live at 29 Good Hope. Even so the couple has only lived on the street for less than a year, having moved from Orlando, Fla., they are already making plans to move to LaPlace.

Neil and Betty Boudreaux have been in Norco for 64 years, and he is retired from a Destrehan grain elevator.

“Nobody likes that flare,” Neil declared, and he said of Motiva buy-out offers, “They want me to sell, but where would I go? I’m too old to start over.”

He recalled that the property where he now lives was bought by his father for $700 and that they used to rabbit-hunt on what is now much of the refinery site.

Betty added of the flare, “It vibrates the house.”

Carlos Ramos, of 177 Good Hope, has a completely opposite view. A former plant employee, he was working onsite when the Shell explosion hit the now-Motiva refinery in May 1985.

He was working in the GO-1 unit and added, “A lot of guys went through hell,” both during and after the explosion, as he recalled the funerals of the men killed by the catalytic cracker explosion.

However, Ramos said of the flares, “As long as flares are going, I’ve got nothing to worry about. I feel safe with them.”

He continued when there’s a power failure, he waits for the flare moments later. Once it starts, he’s reassured.

Up the street near Airline Drive, Brandy Schexnaydre is ready to move from the home where she and her husband, Adrian, live with their infant, because of the threat of Motiva in her backyard.

“It’s really loud and really scares us,” she said of the roaring flares. “I’m waiting for them to buy us out. I really want them to buy us out. It’s hard for us to sleep, and I’m scared they’re going to have another explosion.”

Friloux said there have been no complaints filed to LDEQ from last week’s flaring incident.