A small chemical mixing company in Gretna that failed to submit monitoring reports or plans for handling spills and stormwater runoff to environmental agencies for at least nine years will remain shut down until the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality signs off on its operations.
The Gretna City Council voted unanimously Monday to revoke Malkem International Corp.’s occupational license after hearing from code enforcement inspectors who found corroded and unlabeled containers, a lack of safeguards to prevent chemicals from spilling into the city’s stormwater system and problems with paperwork related to hazardous materials at the company’s facility at 74 First St.
City and state officials found significant problems with the company, which manufactures industrial cleaning products, during a July 17 inspection. That caused the city to suspend the company’s occupational license, a decision the council ratified Monday.
In order to have its occupational license reinstated, the company will have to get clearance from DEQ, according to the council’s decision.
While Michael Manning, the owner of the company, argued that he has taken steps to fix the problems at the site, City Council members said there was little reason to trust that improvements would be made if the license were reinstated now.
“My concern is that this would have continued to go on and may continue to go on after the city leaves and the DEQ is satisfied that you’re currently up to date,” Councilman Joe Marino said. “My appreciation is that, as of today, we still don’t have DEQ signing off and saying you’re in compliance. That’s my concern, that as we’re here right now, we’re still not in full compliance.”
DEQ and city officials, who inspected the site after a resident complained about unlabeled barrels on the property, raised concerns about a number of issues, including potentially polluted runoff from the property, a lack of reports and inspections, and a lack of plans and training for pollution prevention.
During Monday’s hearing, Manning said he had stopped filing required quarterly and annual reports with DEQ after Hurricane Katrina because he thought the company did not deal in large enough volumes of chemicals to fall within the reporting requirements.
Manning described the problems cited by the city as “housekeeping” issues that were more about paperwork than a threat of pollution.
“We’re in the process of doing our paperwork and getting it all straightened out,” he said.
Manning said he has taken steps to correct the issues, including throwing out corroded containers, bringing other containers underneath a roof to prevent them from rusting, updating the guide to hazardous materials on the site and dismantling an outdoor wash area that officials said could cause contaminated water to run into city storm drains. He also said a water test showed acceptable results.
He said he is looking into hiring consultants to complete the rest of the work that’s needed.
“What’s done is done. We have to move forward and get it working,” Manning said.
But council members said they want proof that the problems have been fixed before the company can resume operating at the site.
“I want to keep it suspended until we’re sure they’re in compliance,” Councilman Wayne Rau said.
Follow Jeff Adelson on Twitter, @jadelson.
*Editors note: A previous version of this story included a picture that was mistakenly identified as the site of Malkem International.