On April 3rd, a power outage caused Valero to flare in a highly noticeable manner. Black smoke billowed through the sky. Four nearby schools went on lockdown.
My husband and I were both at work in nearby towns and were unaffected until we got home. Our daughters were in Corpus, though. Not anywhere near the zone with the lockdowns but that did not matter...people got sick all over town. My younger daughter complained that her throat hurt and her eyes stung all afternoon and night. My older daughter, whose asthma has been so well controlled that she had not had to use her rescue inhaler for months, had to use it three times, and also experienced throat pain and stinging eyes.
In the days that followed, I started calling Valero about the issue. We played phone tag some but eventually I reached a community relations person at Valero named Darcy who, while expressing to me multiple times how much she cared about my concerns, did not seem able to agree that it was unacceptable that the only way Valero can operate is by either:
A.) Exploding and killing large swaths of South Texas when these unfortunate incidents happen (obviously the worst option); or
B.) Flaring (to prevent Option A) in a manner that disrupts our schools and businesses and harms our children as mine were harmed, albeit less severely than explosions of poison chemicals would harm them.
See, she just could not see that Option B was truly unacceptable.
But I did not give Valero permission to hurt my children. And it is never okay to hurt children.
Darcy pointed out how they are always looking for new technologies that will decrease the effects of flaring more and I am glad of that but as long as they cannot operate without occasionally hurting my children they have no business operating.
Darcy says I am the only person who called to complain about how the flare impacted my family's health...the only one. I am surprised by this because a lot of people told me about sore throats and stinging eyes that day.
Also, she remembered my calling to complain when Valero's lessee, Ergon, poisoned our city's water supply in December, so there could not have been very many people who spoke to her then, either (by the way she did not make it sound like they are terminating Ergon's lease or any such thing).
So, Mamas. Here is the thing: when Valero hurts your kids, you have to call them. Talk to Darcy in community relations. I know you are concerned because I hear you talking about it a lot, but it seems that Valero does not hear it. Let Darcy know your concerns because as long as she just hears from me, she is probably not too worried that they need to change anything.
Valero makes us vulnerable. Let them know that we will not have it.