Six Common Air Pollutants, Redwing Blackbirds, and CF Industries by the Smoke Commander.

June 15, 2013

Second tragic horrific explosion at Chemical Plants in Ascension Parish on the Mississippi River south of Baton Rouge in 2 days. This one occurred yesterday around 3PM at CF Industries in Donaldsonville, just across the Sunshine Bridge. I am here to tell you that these are fine hardworking folks. This is the Smoke Commander. I am the founder, president, and CEO of Whitlow Smoke School Nation.  I am retired from the Louisiana DEQ. Now I train folks in environmental compliance with regulations dealing with smoke and dust. During my 20 year career with LDEQ, I inspected CF Industries many times. They are environmental friendly. The plant manager donated me my special spot on their company picnic grounds to set up a 14 foot high platform with a total suspended particle sampler. LDEQ was sampling for airborne smoke and dust as part of the nationwide EPA air sampling network.

The aluminum sampler consisted of a vacuum cleaner motor that pulls air through an 8 in by 11 inch quarts paper like filter. I was there every 6 days to collect the 24 hour sampler filter. We weighed the filter before and after to determine how much particulate was in the air we all breathe. The EPA and all state environmental departments collect samples for six common air pollutants. They also use the network of anemometers to determine wind speed and direction. I have heard rumors throughout my careers that the industrial plants know when the EPA is sleeping so they can turn off their pollution control equipment. Not so. Big Brother never sleeps. Environmental Geeks use the computerized sampling and wind data to pinpoint air quality accidence and find the exact source.  


For 20 years I stood on my perch and watched shift workers at CF Industries and their family have picnics, play softball, horse shoes, and basketball. For some strange reason Red Wing Blackbirds loved to eat my filters. They ate every piece of filter that was not covered by the lead frame holding the paper in place. I tried everything I could think of. I even put wire nets around the housing. They had to get in. There must be something about the quarts paper. They just had to get in. I got a rubber snake and laid it on top of the paper.

Six days later, I completely forgot about the snake. I opened the lid and jumped off the platform, fell 14 feet, and broke my ankle. Raymond Guillaume was my official LDEQ auditor and I never knew when he would show up. Raymond was more surprised about the snake than I was. He restrained the urge to jump off the platform and caught the rubber snake and chopped his head off with a pocketknife. When I returned to the platform a few days later, I was sad to see my pet rubber snake headless on the ground at the foot of the platform. When I climbed up and opened the lid, I found the snake’s head lying alone on the bare wire frame for the filter paper. It was those danged Red Wing Blackbirds striking yet again.

A page out of history- Smoke Commander and Raymond on TSP Hi Volume Platform at CF Industries in Donaldsonville

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