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>> 61 3 Noisome Neighbors Fordylson looked at me hard and didn’t have to say what he was thinking. He glanced down at the ground between his smooth-toe lace-ups. “And clean up your yard.” “What’s that got to do with anything?” “It’s got everything to do with everything.” —Tim Gautreaux, “Welding with Children,” 1997 Now Gwen you ought to see [Dane’s] house. It is gorgeous. He had cement poured in most of his yard. On both sides of his garage with 2 patio covers on each side [and] a patio cover over his side porch. Then his vinyl fence is so pretty. In the back part of his yard he has 6 ft. all white. —Myrtle Berteau, New Sarpy resident, letter dated September 10, 2003 Perhaps you would like to see for yourself the sites of these battles over industry’s obligation to its neighbors, over the sustainability of petrochemicals , over the dominance of expert knowledge? Find I-310, a spur off the cross-country interstate I-10 about fifteen miles outside of New Orleans, and make your way south to the River Road (LA-48). Turn right off the exit ramp, and a grassy slope several stories high follows the road on your left— that’s the levee, blocking your view of the Mississippi River just beyond. On your right, pass the streets that comprise Destrehan, the largest town in St. Charles Parish, and myriad parish institutions: a recreational area with ball fields, a branch library, the junior high and high schools, the Ormond plantation house (now home to a weekly farmer’s market), the Catholic church from which the parish takes its name, a police station, and a post office.1 Nothing will mark your transition into New Sarpy—by the time you see the do-it-yourself carwash, you will know you are there—but two-thirds of the way through the town, you may notice a flowerbed planted into the slope of the levee. A sign in it announces that you have reached the 62 > 63 properties, and relatively run-down homes; turn left off Apple Street, however , and you will find yourself amid blocks and blocks of tidy, moderately sized ranchers. Driving down First Street will take you through the undeveloped Gaspard -Mule tract into Diamond, the historically African American part of Norco that won relocation from Shell Chemical in 2002. Diamond’s four streets, especially Washington and Cathy, the two closest to Shell’s west site, are now mostly just green space sprinkled with the occasional house or trailer, ranging from ramshackle to meticulous, belonging to residents who chose not to move. A commemorative sign at the corner of Washington Street and River Road, at the edge of a block that is nothing but grass and trees, reads “Diamond Community—Established Early 19th Century.” Across Washington Street, Shell Chemical’s processing units crowd the fenceline and continue to emit the gases that Concerned Citizens of Norco charged with threatening their health. * * * “Well, what is your opinion about the community . . . do we have a good community? . . . as an outsider, what is your view?” The question was put to me by white Norco resident Milton Cambre. I stammered through an answer (and what would you say, now that you have seen the place?), initially surprised that my opinion would matter to Cambre, who had told me earlier in our May 2003 interview that he had “always thought Norco was a nice town.” But in fact Cambre’s concern about an outsider’s view represented an important dynamic that helped to shape the outcome of CCNS’s campaign (and that fueled bitterness among whites in Norco about Concerned Citizens of Norco’s campaign): the need to maintain the town’s public face as a “good community,” or a nice place to live. Despite their ultimate goal of relocation, CCNS members asserted throughout the summer of 2002 that they were working to make their neighborhood a nice—or, perhaps, a nicer—place to live: through their Clean Air Act lawsuit, they sought improved environmental quality that would benefit everyone, especially those not interested in moving even if a relocation program were offered. They accused Orion of making their good community, in the words of Harold Masters, “bad like it is now,” and—in the wake of Orion’s July 2002 Community Improvement Program offer—dividing their “tightknit ” neighborhood. But as the summer wore on, a rival group was established that charged CCNS with...


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MARC Record
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