Julie Dermansky

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Julie Dermansky is a multimedia reporter and artist based in New Orleans. She is an affiliate scholar at Rutgers University’s Center for the Study of Genocide and Human Rights. Visit her website at www.jsdart.com.

Another Death in Louisiana’s Cancer Alley Brings Environmental Activists Together to Honor One of Their Own

Read time: 7 mins
Casket with Geraldine Mayho’s body being laid to rest in St. James, Louisiana.

On August 7, after Geraldine Mayho’s funeral, her body was laid to rest in the St. James Catholic Cemetery in southern Louisiana, across the street from a cluster of oil storage tanks. The tanks are like those that surround the Burton Lane neighborhood in St. James where she had lived, and are emblematic of the type of polluting industry she spent her last years rallying against.

New Concerns Raised by Opponents Delay Wanhua’s $1.25 Billion Plastic Complex in Louisiana

Read time: 7 mins
Pastor Harry Joseph speaking at a St. James Parish Council meeting on July 24.

Look at what is coming into the Parish, instead of saying ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah’—it is time to say ‘No,’” Pastor Harry Joseph told the St. James Parish Council on July 24. He implored councilmembers to consider freshly unveiled public health and economic concerns before they reaffirmed a permit allowing yet another petrochemical plant in a southern Louisiana community fed up with its already rapid industrialization.

Joseph, pastor of Mount Triumph Baptist Church in St. James, is one of the plaintiffs appealing the parish council’s permit granted May 20 to Wanhua Chemical, which is planning to build a $1.25 billion plastics factory on the banks of the Mississippi River. During the appeal, new information about the project caused the council to halt a vote on repealing the permit. Instead, it sent the matter back for reconsideration to the parish planning commission, which had previously granted the project permission.

Latest Gulf Storm Brings Tough Choices for Residents of Disappearing Isle de Jean Charles

Read time: 9 mins
Resident returns home amid floodwaters on Isle de Jean Charles in Louisiana

While most of Louisiana was spared Barry’s wrath last week, Isle de Jean Charles, a quickly eroding strip of land among coastal wetlands in the Gulf of Mexico, was not. A storm surge swept over the island, about 80 miles southwest of New Orleans, early in the morning on July 13 before Barry was upgraded from a tropical storm to a category 1 hurricane.

On July 15, I met with Albert Naquin, Chief of the Isle de Jean Charles Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Tribe (IDJC) and Wenceslaus Billiot Jr., the Tribe’s deputy chief, to travel to the island and assess the damages. That afternoon, we made our way through the receding waters that still covered Island Road, the only route connecting the island to the mainland. Days after the storm, some parts of the road on the island were still submerged in three feet of water.

Louisiana Braces for a Storm While Weighing New Fossil Fuel Projects

Read time: 7 mins

Yesterday, I stopped writing another story for DeSmog to get ready for what could likely become this year’s first hurricane in the U.S. 

I live in Mandeville, Louisiana, on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain across from New Orleans. My home is above sea level, unlike much of New Orleans, so I’m at a much lower risk for flooding impacts than residents of a city nearly synonymous with flooding.

However, like most residents in south coastal Louisiana, I’m bracing myself for a sustained barrage from the sky, as bands of rain and wind from Tropical Storm Barry arrived in parts of the state this morning. The entire Louisiana coast could be hit with the season’s first hurricane by Saturday.

Louisiana’s Cancer Alley Residents Take the Fight for Environmental Justice on the Road

Read time: 9 mins
Sharon Lavigne and Barbara Washington, St. James Parish residents, in Washington, D.C.

Last month, four residents from Louisiana neighborhoods impacted by air pollution traveled far from their Mississippi River parishes to Washington, D.C., and Tokyo, Japan, seeking help in their struggle for clean air.

St. James Parish’s Sharon Lavigne and Barbara Washington, both fighting to prevent additional petrochemical plant construction near their homes, attended the Congressional Convening on Environmental Justice in Washington, D.C., on June 26.* 

A March Through Heat, Felony Threats, and Pollution Brings Louisiana’s Cancer Alley to Governor’s Attention

Read time: 9 mins
Coalition against death alley on the steps of the Louisiana Capitol

On June 3, at the end of a five-day march through stifling heat in Louisiana’s Cancer Alley, activists fighting against environmental racism reached their goal of bringing attention to their area’s injustices to the state capitol. 

The Coalition Against Death Alley (CADA), a group of Louisiana-based residents and members of various local and state organizations, were met with praise on the steps of the capitol building by State Representative Randal Gaines, the head of the Louisiana Black Caucus.

Breaking: Environmental Justice March Hits Road Block in Louisiana’s Cancer Alley

Read time: 9 mins
March against Death Alley

On May 30, around 100 people took part on the first day of a planned five-day march for environmental justice in Louisiana’s Cancer Alley. Amid sweltering heat, the march kicked off in St. John the Baptist Parish, but extreme obstacles have developed on their route to Baton Rouge, about 50 miles away. Today a judge ruled that the organizers did not have permission to cross two bridges along the route. 

As More Diverted Floodwaters Head Their Way, Dolphins Keep Dying in Louisiana

Read time: 8 mins
George Ricks and a dead dolphin in Louisiana

Warning: This story contains images and video of dead dolphins some may find graphic.

As an unprecedented amount of floodwater makes its way down the Mississippi River, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers today opened the Bonnet Carre Spillway for the second time this year. Done to prevent New Orleans from being flooded, the action marks the first time the spillway, which diverts the Mississippi’s nutrient- and pollutant-heavy freshwater into Lake Pontchatrain, has been opened twice in the same year. 

The historic opening of the spillway is happening in the midst of an ongoing and mysterious dolphin die-off in the Gulf of Mexico and the same week that the United Nations released its most comprehensive report on the state of biodiversity.

Critics Say Louisiana ‘Highjacked’ Climate Resettlement Plan for Isle de Jean Charles Tribe

Read time: 11 mins
Pickup truck headed to Isle de Jean Charles on a flooded Island Road on April 13, 2019.

Albert Naquin, Chief of the Isle de Jean Charles Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Tribe (IDJC), often loses sleep over his tribe’s fate as its historic island homeland continues to lose land at an alarming rate. His dream to relocate the tribe from Isle de Jean Charles with a federal grant has turned into a nightmare.

After helping the Louisiana Office of Community Development (OCD) win a $98 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Tribe no longer wants to be associated with the State’s project, which included $48 million earmarked to relocate the IDJC Tribe. 

Outraged, New Coalition Emerges Against Louisiana’s Expanding—and Polluting—Petrochemical Industry

Read time: 8 mins
Coalition Against Death Alley protest in front of Mosaic fertilizer plant in St. James Parish

“Take a deep breath” is common advice for helping people to relax. However, that advice has the opposite effect on some citizens who live in heavily polluted Louisiana communities along the Mississippi River. There, a new coalition is emerging from a growing awareness of — and discontent with — the potential health impacts of living alongside the expanding petrochemical industry lining the river between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

The 80-mile stretch along the river known as Louisiana’s “Petrochemical Corridor” is often referred to as “Cancer Alley.” Simmering frustrations among its communities, which are exposed to the industry’s pollution, recently led the new coalition of environmental and civil rights activists and Louisiana residents to rebrand it “Death Alley.”

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