The public outcry over a proposed barge-cleaning facility in south Baton Rouge has now rippled northward, with renewed efforts to fight the pollution befouling communities in north Baton Rouge.
About 70 people, including elected officials, university professors and other residents, attended a meeting Tuesday evening organized by the Louisiana Environmental Action Network and the Green Army.
The purpose of the meeting, held at Greater Kind David Baptist Church, was to give the community a better understanding of pollution concerns in north Baton Rouge.
“This state has sacrificed so much to the development of this nation,” said retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, who is leader of the Green Army coalition of environmental groups based in Louisiana. That progress, many times done with the best of intentions, means there are legacy pollution sites in the parish, he said.
“We’re here as a community looking in the rearview mirror as we move this ship forward,” Honoré said. “It’s up to us to organize ourselves like previous generations had to organize.”
East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council member Chauna Banks-Daniel said the meeting came about because as the Metro Council debated whether to rezone a property for a proposed barge-cleaning facility in south Baton Rouge, she got a phone call from Honoré, who offered any help she might need to move environmental work forward in the northern part of the parish.
Banks-Daniel said she realized through the experience with the south Baton Rouge fight that people are only aware of what affects them directly. After the meeting in which the council voted to rezone the south Baton Rouge property, she said, her email inbox filled up with notes from people in south Baton Rouge thanking her for her vote and saying anytime there is another fight in north Baton Rouge, they would be there in support.
“Let’s take them up on that offer,” she said.
Wilma Subra, chemist and technical adviser to the Louisiana Environmental Action Network, on Tuesday presented condensed histories of the lengthy legacy and current industrial history of north Baton Rouge.
The area includes several industrial waste sites from the 1960s and 1970s, some of which are now Superfund sites; several landfills currently operating; and a host of chemical plants that line Scenic Highway.
“The communities are in desperate need of having their chemical exposure reduced and their quality of life improved,” Subra said.
Follow Amy Wold on Twitter, @awold10.