Tracy Kuhns never imagined a future as an environmental activist. A native of Louisiana, she was living and going to college in Texas – already a young mother – when she discovered the reason the neighborhood kids, and herself, were getting rashes and constantly sick was because they were living next door to a chemical plant’s waste pit. Six years after she began fighting the area was declared a Superfund site, the houses in her neighborhood were razed, and she moved back to Louisiana.
Once back home in bayou country, married to a fisherman, she found it impossible to look the other way when she saws signs of trouble in her new backyard. When her fishermen neighbors started bringing back stories from the nearby fishing grounds of pollution left behind by oil and gas companies who’d come in, exploited and left – leaving spills, pipelines and infrastructure behind, fouling the estuaries – she had to get involved. Joined by her husband Mike Roberts today they are the official Louisiana Bayoukeepers and she also works with the local Fisherman’s Association in Barataria, counseling on everything from health insurance to, now, recovering from the loss of income due to the oil spill.
The day I find her at home, Mike’s fishing boat docked on the canal behind the house, sun glistening off the waterway that leads towards the Gulf (30 miles away) would have been the opening day of brown shrimp season.
“We’re used to spills around here, but usually they’re small and you won’t be able to fish in that area for a couple years. This is something totally different. This is something they (the oil company) can’t control and it’s just heartbreaking and infuriating.
For the rest of my conversation with Tracy, plus video, go to takepart.com.