Axiall to build steel wall along Bayou Verdine

By By Frank DiCesare / American Press

The state’s Department of Environmental Quality approved a request from Axiall Corp. to change its hazardous waste controls

at its North Dock area along Bayou Verdine.

DEQ’s decision grants Axiall a modification to its existing hazardous waste permit, allowing the company to replace 19 of

its remedial wells with a permanent 1,700-foot-long steel wall, which will sink about 15 feet into the ground.

The estimated $2 million wall will seal

off the North Dock area, preventing the company’s contaminated

discharge from migrating

into the bayou. Axiall will continue to operate two of its

groundwater withdrawal wells to capture shallow groundwater being

contained by wells that will be removed when the barrier wall is

installed.

Construction on the wall is expected to

start by December. The wall is scheduled for completion in early 2014,

said Alan Chapple,

Axiall’s director of corporate communications and public

relations.

DEQ officials granted Axiall the permit modification one month after a two-month public comment period.

At least two weeks before construction

on the wall begins, Axiall officials must submit to DEQ their final

design plans for

the wall, as well as their plans for monitoring waste withdrawal

and groundwater once the new system is online. The company

must also provide DEQ with a “plugged and abandonment” plan that

outlines how the company will remove its old wells and plug

the holes left behind in the ground.

Officials must also submit to DEQ a

construction report and a plan that outlines the wall’s operation and

maintenance 45 days

after its construction is completed. The report must also

summarize the wall’s construction activities, performance and

maintenance.

Chapple said Axiall is preparing a plan that it will submit to DEQ for approval.

During a Westlake public meeting in

July, Mike Huber, Axiall’s remediation specialist and manager of

environmental projects,

said the wells that will be removed along the North Dock are

between 20 to 25 years old and “at the end of their usable lives.”

He added that a permanent subsurface

sheet wall is a better solution to keep “groundwater from flowing

offsite.” Axiall’s

manufacturing process results in the discharge of chlorinated

hydrocarbons from its plant. These toxic chemicals are insoluble

in water.

One local environmentalist, however, believes the steel sheet wall may not be enough to stop Axiall’s wastewater from entering

the bayou. Michael Tritico, president of the Lake Charles-based Restore Explicit Symmetry To Our Ravaged Earth (RESTORE),

said many chlorinated hydrocarbons are corrosive and could cause the steel wall to deteriorate over time.

“If we’re relying on this (sheet wall), and we don’t know that there’s a leak, there could be a reintroduction of the hazardous

waste materials at a shallow level,” he said.

Tritico added that a combination of the sheet wall and new withdrawal wells would be a better solution.

“When you release that draft and hope

that a deeper recovery well is going to take over, there’s a gamble

there, a speculation,”

he said. “We’ve seen at places like Willow Springs that withdrawal

wells have limits, and things that have been released before

the draft was started are moving out beyond where the recovery

influence can affect them. The capture zone is limited, vertically

and horizontally.”

William Schramm, a DEQ geologist, said Axiall’s remaining wells will continue to remove the contamination in the deeper zones.

“The wall is going to prevent the

lateral movement; it’s going to force the flow of the groundwater down

into the other recovery

systems,” he said. “So (the wall) is not just going to just stop

the flow. The system is going to continue recovering the

contamination and the contaminated ground water. We’re going to

continue pumping existing wells in the remaining system. Some

of the 10-foot zone wells will be removed, but the deeper wells

will control the contaminant removal.”