Special Wastes of the Atchafalaya Basin

Divinations is a student project developed by Rebekah Dye in the 2011 ParadoXcity Mississippi studio.

Oil drilling and production wastes are one of six categories of special wastes that were exempted from federal hazardous waste regulation (under RCRA Subtitle C) in 1978, despite the presence of significant amounts of benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene, and naturally-occurring radioactive materials within these wastes. Thirty years later, several thousand active and abandoned E&P waste sites are known to exist in Louisiana’s Atchafalaya River basin – and the presence of many more unknown sites should be assumed.

 examines the limits of convenient political and technological clean-up solutions amidst the fragility of this landscape and the magnitude of its destruction by the petroleum industry. This project explores the implications of understanding Louisiana’s toxic wastes – composed of elements that exist on scales of time and space much larger than human experience – as objects imbued with sacred connotations, necessitating a system of alternative ritual practices: pilgrimages along US-90 and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway; hierophants inhabiting daiquiri huts, truck stops, and night clubs; high priests in hazmat suit vestments; and inner sancta.

The wasteland ecosystems shaped by the industry – canal impoundments, spoil banks, tank battery farms, access ramps, invasive hyacinth, and so on – provide unique opportunities for unholy intervention.

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