Have You Met Jenny? A Story of Polluted Bodies and Silenced Voices… Identity in a Time of Crisis (Pt. 2)

Princella Talley
4 min readJun 12, 2022
Photo by Alexander Tsang on Unsplash

Growing up in Louisiana, a love of nature was instilled in Jenny from an early age. Jenny’s family didn’t have much money, but they had a bounty of honeysuckle, creeks for skipping rocks, trees to climb, and a family history of master gardening. Nature was a provider, a trusted friend and a confidante.

Relocating deeper into town felt like moving to another world. Creeks and trees were replaced by apartment complexes, a few stores, and a nearby creosote plant for wood treatment. Jenny’s family knew very little about the plant but quickly became familiar with what smelled like rotten eggs. They could smell it from the highway and inside their apartment. It was a stench so heavy that they could taste it when they swallowed.

As months gave way to years, Jenny’s asthma became severe. Her mother suffered from migraines and stomach pain almost daily. And one day, as they stood outside together, their noses started to bleed just a few minutes apart.

It was the first of many nosebleeds for Jenny, but one would stand apart from the rest. It was a nosebleed that just wouldn’t seem to stop. Her nose was bleeding so profusely that blood began to drip from her eyes and spill from her mouth. In this sea of red, she walked up to her mother and said, “Something’s wrong.” It was the last words she said before being rushed to the hospital, shivering from the coldest feeling she’d ever felt as she went into shock and slipped out of consciousness.

Waking up felt like emerging from a strange dream. Jenny’s nose was cauterized and recovery was long as weeks of high school passed by. More questions arose, but no answers followed.

10 years later, a phone call from a friend started to unravel the mystery.

Hey Jenny, did you know checks are being cut to people in our neighborhood after that lawsuit? You’d just have to verify your address.

“That lawsuit” had been brought forward against the wood treatment facility Colfax Treating Company in 2003 for years of air, water, and soil contamination that caused significant health problems for residents. In 2014, the company pled guilty to the negligent discharge of…

Princella Talley