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Bucket Brigades[edit]

Bucket brigades were pioneered by attorney Edward L. Masry in 1995 after he and Erin Brockovich fell ill when exposed to fumes from a petroleum refinery in Contra Costa County, California. Government authorities asserted that their monitors detected no problems, leading Masry to hire an environmental engineer to design a low cost device which the community could use to monitor toxin levels themselves. This "bucket" has been approved by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and is used to take air samples.[1]

Working closely with Ed Masry, Denny Larson of Communities for a Better Environment, now director of Global Community Monitor, promoted the use of the buckets in other communities exposed to toxic air emissions. Larson produced a community manual to educate communities that neighbor refineries on how to build and operate their own buckets. The manual helped spread the buckets throughout the refinery belt of Contra Costa County in California, and eventually to Louisiana.[2]

The community of Mossville is located near the city of Lake Charles in Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana. Forty of the fifty-three industrial facilities in Calcasieu Parish are located within 10 miles of Mossville. These facilities represent the largest concentration of vinyl plastic manufacturers in the U.S., a coal-fired power plant, oil refineries, and chemical production facilities. In September 1998, Mossville residents of "fenceline communities" formed a bucket brigade and began taking samples. The samples revealed violations of Louisiana standards for vinyl chloride, ethylene dichloride, and benzene. One sample found carcinogenic benzene in excess of 220 times the State's standard. In the following year, after much media attention, the Environmental Protection Agency confirmed pollution levels higher than detected by the bucket brigade. Some facilities were fined and new monitoring devices were installed. By 1999, bucket brigades had spread throughout the Cancer Alley of Louisiana, leading to the formation of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade. The organization gives grants to community groups to continue bucket monitoring.[3]


In 1999, LABB Founding Director Anne Rolfes became interested in doing work along Cancer Alley, Louisiana. She learned that the Mossville community had success with using the bucket to monitor air quality, and was inspired to use buckets in more communities. After trying to get existing organizations to incorporate the bucket as a tool, she realized that there was a need for a new group dedicated to citizen monitoring. Anne Rolfes incorporated the organization in 2000 with guidance from groups like Xavier University's Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, Earthjustice, Communities for a Better Environment and the Sierra Club. The Beldon Fund, which had been supporting Communities for a Better Environment, wrote the first check to the organization for $50,000. Communities currently participating in the Bucket Brigade include Alsen, Baton Rouge, Chalmette, Mossville, New Sarpy, Norco, Louisiana, Port Arthur, Texas, and Durban, South Africa. The Louisiana Bucket Brigade also works with Residents for Air Neutralization, a community group supported by LABB in Shreveport, Louisiana. The Louisiana Bucket Brigade works to improve accident safety at 17 oil refineries and 174 chemical plants, many of which are located along Cancer Alley between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. The Louisiana Bucket Brigade is featured in the 2002 documentary film Blue Vinyl.[4]

In addition to the bucket, the Louisiana Bucket Brigade employs the following tools to organize and enable citizens to respond to chemical accidents:[5]

  • iWitness Pollution Map
  • Refinery Accident Database
  • Rapid Response Team
  • Art-to-Action
  • Annual Earth Day Festival (coming in April 21, 2013)


  1. ^ "History of the Bucket". Louisiana Bucket Brigade. Retrieved 3/14/2013.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  2. ^ "History of the Bucket". Louisiana Bucket Brigade. Retrieved 3/14/2013.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  3. ^ "History of the Bucket". Louisiana Bucket Brigade. Retrieved 3/14/2013.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  4. ^ "History of the Bucket". Louisiana Bucket Brigade. Retrieved 3/14/2013.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  5. ^ "Campaings/Programs". Louisiana Bucket Brigade. Retrieved 3/10/2013.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)