Agreement signed for clean up of more than 700 acres of Bayou d’Inde

By By Frank DiCesare / American Press

The state Department of Environmental

Quality on Wednesday signed a cooperative agreement with four local

petrochemical companies

to clean up more than 700 acres of Bayou d’Inde.

Citgo, Axiall, Occidental Chemical and Oxy USA have agreed to fund cleanup efforts in four areas of Bayou d’Inde that have

been polluted from chemicals discharged from their plants.

“We could’ve funded this cleanup with

public dollars, but we always prefer to do the cleanup with private

dollars where they

are available,” said Tom Harris, DEQ’s administrator of

underground storage tank and remediation division. “We’re really looking

forward to putting the bayou back into productive use for the

community.”

Harris said two other companies, Firestone and Westlake Polymers, were also deemed by DEQ as being partly responsible for

polluting Bayou d’Inde. Firestone officials, however, claimed they were not responsible.

Westlake Polymers signed a cooperative agreement to do an investigation in the area. But after the data were collected, company

officials concluded they were not significantly responsible. DEQ and EPA officials disagreed with both companies’ claims,

Harris said.

Officials from Firestone and Westlake

Polymers chose not to participate in the bayou’s cleanup. Harris said

the Louisiana

Environmental Quality Act allows companies that work with the

government to clean up areas damaged by hazardous waste to sue

other responsible nonparticipating companies for what they believe

would have been their percentage of the project.

The estimated yearlong project will

address four areas of concern along Bayou d’Inde. A 2001 investigation

by the U.S. Environmental

Protection Agency found dioxins in the bayou’s lower portions and

polychlorinated biphenyls in its upper regions. EPA officials

also discovered heavy metals such as mercury, zinc, lead and

chromium in the bayou.

A report of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry has linked high exposures to PCBs to certain cancers, as

well as nerve and heart disease. The report also says that studies suggest “PCBs may be associated with diabetes, and may

harm our endocrine system.”

The Area 1 cleanup will occur in Bayou

d’Inde’s upper regions, from Little Bayou d’Inde to La. 108. Harris said

an “articulated

block mat” will be installed that will eliminate any contaminated

exposure to fish, shellfish or any type of plant or animal

life in the region to the sediments underneath.

“It’s reinforced with rebar and then

concrete is pumped into it,” Harris added. “The concrete does not allow

any exposure

to these contaminated sediments in depth; it does not allow for

scouring to mobilize the contaminants. The fish and shellfish

are not able to uptake the contaminants of concern.”

Area 2 will focus on the bayou’s dredge channel between La. 108 and the Calcasieu River Ship Channel. Workers will dredge

down to the native soil at the depth that it was originally dredged 40 years ago, Harris said.

The contaminated sediments removed from the area will be deposited into Lockport Marsh and capped in place with clean sediments.

Area 3 will address the fringe marshes along the backs of Bayou d’Inde between La. 108 and the PPG Canal.

“We’re going to place clean sediments in those fringe marsh areas similar to the remedy in Area 1,” Harris said. “This will

eliminate exposure to fish, shellfish or people to the contaminated sediments below.”

Area 4 will have clean sediments placed on the surface of the Lockport Marsh below the PPG Canal, Harris said.

Michael Tritico, president of the Lake Charles-based group Restore Explicit Symmetry To Our Ravaged Earth said he disagrees

with the idea of moving contaminated sediments from one area and capping them in another.

“The concept of picking up poisonous

sediments from one spot and putting them in another spot that is still

going to be flushed

by the tidal pulses and the storms and winds, is a bad idea,” he

said. “They’re not really removing the poison sediments from

the ecosystem, they’re just moving them and leaving them in a

position to be further eroded. It’s an inferior plan.”

Harris, however, said he has “a high

degree of confidence” that the remedies DEQ has recommended will “fix

the problem” in

Bayou d’Inde. He added that within “a couple of short years” DEQ

will be able to lift the bayou’s fish consumption advisory.

“Of course we will need to see the data. We’re going to have to see the data and see it for a couple of years running before

we lift the advisory,” he said. “I’m encouraged.