EBR leaders look to change zoning of proposed barge cleaning site

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Two East Baton Rouge Metro Council leaders are adding their concerns to a proposed barge cleaning facility and are taking steps to stop the project before it starts.

Texas based Tubal-Cain Marine Resources looks to build the facility on a section of the Mississippi River near Brightside Drive across from BREC's Farr Equestrian Park. Several residents living in the neighborhood are worried by the potential impact of such an operation.

In order to build the facility, the company must first get an air permit from the Department of Environmental Quality. In its application, the company details how the operation will work, including offloading the cargo, flaring any leftover toxic chemicals and releasing any non-toxic chemicals.

That permit is currently up for public comment, and DEQ will hold a public hearing on August 18.

Before that permit is issued, Councilman John Delgado and Mayor Pro Tem Chandler Loupe hope to change the zoning of the build site. That area of River Road is currently zoned for heavy industrial use, which would allow for the cleaning operation.

However, since the site neighbors a residential neighborhood, a city park and sits within a two miles of LSU's campus, Delgado said the zoning is inappropriate. He hopes to change it to heavy commercial use.

"There's just too many people who are out there, using that area, living out there to really justify any economic gain that the parish may get from having this business come into to Baton Rouge. We're putting people's lives at risk in doing so," said Delgado.

However, in an article by the Baton Rouge Business Report, the Port of Greater Baton Rouge Director Jay Hardman defended the barge cleaning facility, saying the controversy is overblown. According to the article, the port owns the property in question.

"He should live next door. They've already said they're going to burn 8 tons of toxic chemicals, 15 tons of volatile chemicals," countered Delgado. "You want to live next door to that? That's where these people are at right now."

The re-zoning proposal must make its way through the planning commission, with final approval coming from the council on August 19.

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