St Gabriel

St. Gabriel is located in Iberville Parish. As of the 2020 census, the population is approximately 6,433 with 60% of residents being African-American (US Census 2020).

Like many African-American communities along the Mississippi river, residents of St. Gabriel can trace their ancestors back to formerly enslaved people who settled outside of plantations. Similarly to other riverfront communities, St. Gabriel transformed from plantations that cultivated sugarcane, to sharecropping, to an industrial economy.

In 1988, St Gabriel resident and pharmicist, Kay Gaudet noticed that women in St. Gabriel were having miscarriages at an alarming rate. She documented these instances and found that one out of every three pregnancies ended in miscarriage, which was double the average in Louisiana. Gaudet suspected the 18 surrounding chemical plants were the cause, but there was no way to prove the correlation (LA Times 1988).

In 1994, residents fought to get their community incorporated and were successful. This incorporation gave St. Gabriel political power to control what new industries developed inside the city limits. However, there are now 30 petrochemical plants surrounding St. Gabriel (ProPublica 2019).

In 2017, a carbon reactivation facility, Absorbent Solutions, was operating in conflict with local zoning and documented to be in violation of the Clean Air Act resulting in a fine of $30,000 for non-compliance. Despite these violations, Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) approved Absorben Solutions permit for expansions and air modification. The city council denied the company’s zoning request citing the health risks (Desmog 2017).

LEAN, assisting the Citizens for a Better St. Gabriel, filed a petition in the 19th Judicial District challenging DEQ’s approvals and sent a Notice of Intent to Adsorbent Solutions for violation of the Clean Air Act. Adsorbent Solutions requested to rescind their new permit application. The facility has since closed (The Advocate 2017).

Despite the success inside the city, residents in St. Gabriel are still being affected by the growing petrochemical industry outside of town limits.