Residents complain about "Natural Advantage" - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Residents complain about 'Natural Advantage'

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It's an industrial facility in Allen Parish called "Natural Advantage." But some residents feel they're at a disadvantage living near the plant due to odors and other concerns.

But the company says it's following state environmental laws.

The company is located in rural Allen Parish and makes food flavorings.

"We make food flavor ingredients for the food and beverage industry. We have numerous customers you might have heard of such as Pepsi, Kraft, Dr. Pepper. They've been here personally. They do inspections to approve us as a supplier," said Justin Fontenot, the company's man in charge of regulatory compliance.

To put it bluntly, the plant stinks.

Residents say the odors are sometimes unbearable. 

"The smell is so just, I'm going to say intoxicating sometimes, I mean I've never been intoxicated. But it burns your eyes, it makes you nauseated, it's just so bad you can't go outside. And I like to be outside," said Betty Stockman, who lives nearby.

She and her husband, Tommy Stockman, agree something needs to be done. They have a petition others have signed expressing concerns.

"The safety of the community and the safety of the workers, not being able to go outside most of the mornings when it stinks so bad," said Tommy, about his concerns.

They also worry about whether there is pollution to surface water and ground water. A hose drains water from the property onto the roadway. Natural Advantage's Fontenot said the hose drains rainwater, and is not related to company operations. He said the company does what the state requires.

The plant is expanding and Fontenot said they hope to incorporate changes to reduce odors. 

"We will be trying to employ scrubbers to try to eliminate the odor. We have asked DEQ for advice on how to control odors," said Fontenot.

Natural Advantage employs about 80 people and company officials say it's the third largest employer in the parish.
The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality has investigated complaints about the facility. And finds while the odors are noticeable, they don't violate any state or federal health standards.

Information provided by DEQ follows this story.

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Attached is a copy of a report resulting from one of most recent odor complaints that was lodged against Natural Advantage, Inc. (AI #104795). I have also attached a copy of an inspection report that resulted in Areas of Concern being referred to our Enforcement Division (the referral is still in the enforcement process).

Here are a few informational bullets related to the site:

  • This site is primarily a research and development facility (with small-scale production) for food grade additives for flavoring.
  • DEQ has received complaints (mostly odor) through the years dating back to 2002, and agree that odors resulting from operations at the facility are noticeable. 
  • We issued a multi-media (air, water, haz-waste) Compliance Order / Notice of Potential Penalty (CO/NOPP (MM-CN-03-0079) around January 28, 2004, as a result of some of the first complaint investigations.
  • Based on the response to the order, they don't need an air permit, they resolved their hazardous waste issues and applied for and received a water discharge permit.
  • Our Air Permits section issued a letter to the facility (10-18-12) giving them 90 days to submit a permit application for an air permit.  Information was exchanged between the facility and the department, and based on the final calculations and information provided to us (estimated emissions), it does NOT appear that an air permit is necessary due to an exemption, per ACT 547, which states that if a facility is below 15 tons per year of all emissions they do not need an air permit.
  • We collected a summa canister (air sample) downwind of the facility in November 2012, as part of an odor complaint investigation.  The report from our toxicologist indicated that none of the compounds detected in the ambient air sample were present at levels that exceeded short-term, health-based guidelines when the data were compared to the acute inhalation Minimum Risk Level (ATSDR- 2012).
  • Odors can be a nuisance, but that does not mean they exceed any state or federal health-based standard.
  • In addition, we have forwarded a compliance inspection report to our Enforcement division for the unauthorized disposal of solid (process) waste, numerous  water permit excursions, and an unpermitted sewage discharge point.
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