ST. GABRIEL — It was a "no" vote across the board from the City Council Thursday night on a zoning and variance request from a local chemical company hoping to expand its facility.
The council's vote was preceded by residents begging city leaders to deny the request by Adsorbent Solutions.
"Since they're going to be rebuilding the facility, this is the perfect time for them to find a new location that's already zoned for the expansion," Tyrone Williams said during a public forum before the council meeting. "I don't think this company is a good corporate citizen."
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Company officials attended the City Council meeting with their lawyers and several employees who defended Adsorbent.
Attorney George Grace, one of two environmental lawyers who spoke on Adsorbent's behalf, said the council's denial of the zoning and variance requests won't close the facility.
"A vote of 'no' won't allow the necessary upgrades that will be better for the plant and the community," Grace said before the council's vote. "The vote tonight is for a more productive facility. (But) Adsorbent is not going anywhere."
The council members cast their no vote with very little discussion.
Adsorbent Solutions, a company that recycles and processes chemicals from other processing facilities, was seeking rezoning of its property from a business corridor to light industrial. The company needs the zoning and variance approvals for a planned expansion of their small facility.
The city's Planning and Zoning Committee unanimously rejected the company's request in September.
The expansion plans also require approval of an air permit modification from the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality.
According to LDEQ, the expansion would increase the annual emissions of sulfur dioxide, fine particulate matter and carbon monoxide, while reducing volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides the facility releases during its daily operation.
A public hearing for LDEQ permit modification was held March 7 and more than 70 residents attended, voicing staunch opposition to Adsorbent's plans. LDEQ, however, granted Adsorbent's request on Wednesday.
"They didn't rubber stamp the issuing the air permit," Grace said. "They did their due diligence."
Company officials said previously the expansion would allow the company to upgrade its facility in the 7100 block of St. Gabriel Avenue with the latest technology to improve public safety and its environmental impact on the surrounding community.
Residents, however, blasted the company, claiming it has been the source of foul odors that have permeated in their subdivision for years. Several are convinced their health-related issues are a result of the emissions from the Adsorbent facility.
Adsorbent is currently locked in a legal dispute with LDEQ over its day-to-day operations. In April 2015, state regulators threatened to fine Adsorbent for allegedly ignoring compliance mandates dating as far back as 2013.
Among other problems, LDEQ claimed Adsorbent had improperly disposed of solid waste and/or reactivated carbon at its facility into the surrounding community and nearby waterways.
The company's lawyers and employees told city leaders Adsorbent has taken corrective measures to settle the LDEQ violations. It was also revealed Thursday the company is in final negotiations with the state on a settlement regarding the ongoing legal dispute.
"This area was not intended for industrial," said Marcy Hardy, another resident who spoke at the meeting. "In my opinion, the facility is not compatible to the district it's located in."