About 100 local residents spent Tuesday evening at an LSU auditorium learning more about a new barge cleaning facility proposed to be located just a few miles down River Road as they prepared for an official public hearing to be held next week.
Organized by the Louisiana Environmental Action Network in partnership with LSU Superfund Research Center Community Engagement Core, the gathering served as an education on the proposed facility and the processes the facility would use.
For LEAN, it also was an opportunity to present the case for why the proposed facility is incompatible with the homes, schools, churches and parks located within a mile of the site.
“Is it appropriate to have industrial right next to education, recreational and residential areas?” asked Wilma Subra, chemist and adviser to LEAN.
Local residents at the meeting voiced a number of concerns, including whether people will be informed of what’s being processed at the site, how emissions will be estimated, what happens to the company if it goes over its permit limits and why the facility is being located so near homes and parks when none of that exists further downriver.
Tubal-Cain Marine Services wants to operate its barge cleaning facility on a 33-acre parcel on the east bank of the Mississippi River near the Farr Park Equestrian Center.
Residents, BREC officials and LSU officials were alerted to plans for the proposed facility by an attorney for a nearby landowner after the company applied to the state Department of Environmental Quality for a permit. After requests came in from elected officials and residents, DEQ agreed to hold a public hearing on the permit at 6 p.m. on July 14 in the Oliver Pollock room of the Galvez Building, 602 N 5th St. in Baton Rouge.
“This is your one and only chance to submit your information to the agency,” Subra told the group that met Tuesday night.
Community concerns have ranged from questions about what materials will be handled at the facility to additional noise and how materials released from the facility could impact the quality of life for nearby residents.
Subra said the concerns are valid, given that the permit gives the company the ability to release 198 chemicals to the air. Of that, Subra said, only five chemicals have specific limits on how much can be released.
Although some of the vapors in the barges will be sent to a flare to burn off the material, there will also be quite a bit released to the air, Subra said.
From the flare itself, the proposed permit would allow for 13.14 tons of air pollution to be released a year including benzene, a known carcinogen; chloroform, which is considered a probable carcinogen; and 1,2-Dichloreoethan, which may cause cancer in humans, Subra said.
The facility would pump out any remaining liquid in barges into on-site storage tanks that would then be loaded onto trucks for sale or disposal. Remaining vapors in the barges would then be sent to an enclosed flare.
Slawo Lomnick, with the Department of Environmental Sciences at LSU, walked through how flaring works, describing how difficult it is to burn certain chemicals with high efficiency and the complications flares can encounter.
In addition, he said, it’s important to remember that as some chemicals are burned they may be destroyed only to create new compounds that aren’t accounted for.
According to the permit application, the levels of air pollution from the planned facility are low enough that it is considered a “minor source” and as such doesn’t require any public notification. The facility expects to release pollution including 10 tons of nitrogen oxide, 49 tons of carbon monoxide and 15 tons of volatile organic compounds a year, according to the permit application.
No one from DEQ or the company spoke at the meeting. But in a previous interview, Bryan Johnston, senior environmental scientist in DEQ’s air permits division, said the facility is not like a chemical plant that will be keeping material under pressure, which can lead to dangerous events. As such, he said, the barge cleaning facility doesn’t need to have an evacuation plan or alarm system.
“This is not a process that lends itself to some really nasty incident, whether it be a shelter in place or something like that,” Johnston said last week.
Although the facility plans to release types of air pollution that provide the ingredients for ozone pollution, the amounts are small enough that they won’t make a difference on the readings of the ozone monitor at LSU, he said.
The Baton Rouge area currently meets federal standards for ozone but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expected to release tougher standards later this year.
Public comment on the proposed permit ends at 4:30 p.m. on July 16. Public comments can be sent to LDEQ, Public Participation Group, P.O. Box 4313, Baton Rouge, LA 70821-4343 or email at DEQ.Public.Notices@la.gov. Comments should include AI number 192411 permit number 0840-003334-00.
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