Neighbors prepare to challenge proposed barge cleaning facility

Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Concerns about a proposed barge cleaning facility along the Mississippi River just southwest of LSU's campus are rising. A Texas based company called Tubal-Cain Marine Services hopes to build the facility on 33 acres of the levee near Brightside Drive.

Cleaning barges requires offloading the cargo, flaring any leftover toxic chemicals and releasing any non-toxic chemicals. That process will require a permit from the Department of Environmental Quality, and the company applied for a "minor source air permit." That means the company is limited on how many emissions can be released.

While the area Tubal-Cain hopes to develop is zoned as industrial, there are homes and recreational spots nearby. Within three miles of the sight sits Alex Box Stadium and even Brusly High School on the other side of the river. Directly next to the site is BREC's Farr Park Equestrian Center and a nesting spot for bald eagles.

So, it's no surprise that many people are uneasy about any chemicals potentially wafting their way.

"We have serious questions about the proposed facility including the possible impact to horses, bald eagles and people at the park, whether there will be daily testing of air pollution and, if so, whether that information will be reported to the public? Other questions include what chemicals will be handled at the facility, how an accident would be handled and whether there is an evacuation plan," said BREC spokesperson Cheryl Michelet.

"The challenge of this is that it could create a very dangerous environmental situation in a congested area near a subdivision, across from a horse park," said retired Lt. General Russel Honoré.

Before the permit is issued, DEQ will soon hold a public hearing where residents can make their case on whether or not this permit should be granted.

"We won't be answering any questions, but if they ask questions they'll be answered later on in writing in our basis for decision," said DEQ Press Secretary Gary Langley.

A week before the public meeting, the LSU Superfund Research Center along with Louisiana Environmental Action Network stepped in to provide some expert input.

"We believe the regulatory system works really well if we have public input. If people are suspicious and not clear of what the scientific questions are, if they're not sure about how the regulatory process works, they're simply not going to be able to participate as well," said Margaret Reams with the LSU Superfund Research Center.

According to Reams, LSU has a neutral stance on the proposal; however, it is home to chemical experts on flaring and its potential impacts on the environments. Two of the experts spoke to a crowd on campus. They also provided guidance on how to present their concerns to DEQ.

The DEQ meeting will be Tuesday, July 14, at 6 p.m. in the Oliver Pollock room of the Galvez Building on 5th Street.

Residents wishing to comment can either do so at the meeting or submit their statement in writing online.  For more information on how to do that, click here.

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