BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - According to representatives from Tubal-Cain Marine Services, the company has invested two years and $4 million to trying to establish a barge cleaning facility on the Mississippi River about a mile and a half south of Brightside Drive.
Spokesman Randy Cooper explained in that time it was smooth sailing with little public objection as the company got approval from several government agencies including the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. However, as the facility applied for an air permit from the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, the company hit choppy waters.
The minor source air permit is required because cleaning barges can involve releasing and/or flaring leftover chemicals from the barge, some of which could be toxic. With the proposed site less than two miles away from several neighborhoods and parks, residents are worried about the potential health and environmental impacts.
"Did everybody just ignore the fact that people live around this thing?" said resident Joy Griffin.
Just one day after the East Baton Rouge Planning Commission recommend rezoning the site off River Road, which would halt the project's development, residents asked the DEQ to reject the air-permit application during a public hearing.
Tubal-Cain maintains the operation will have little impact on nearby neighborhoods and that local industry is in desperate need of a barge cleaning facility.
"What message does this send to industry? What message does this say to companies looking to locate or relocate to the Baton Rouge area and bring jobs to this region?" said Cooper in response to the rezoning recommendation.
However, many city leaders have taken a public stand against the facility. The Metro Council is expected to vote on the rezoning on August 19.
"Places or barges like Tubal-Cain are not at the top of our list," responded Mayor Kip Holden. "Matter of fact, they are not on our list to recruit for economic development."
The LDEQ has received about a 100 comments on the air permit application. Public comment will remain open until August 31. Any comments can be submitted HERE.