Concerns raised that recent rains will expose Bayou d'Inde sediment

Published: Jun. 22, 2015 at 10:21 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 21, 2015 at 11:30 PM CDT
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CALCASIEU PARISH, LA (KPLC) - For decades, state and federal environmental agencies, industries and concerned residents have debated how to tackle chemical contamination in Bayou D'Inde.

PPG, now Axiall, has done its part, by removing much of the contaminated sediment and relocating it.

A local environmentalist said he's concerned whether the pollution is staying secured.

Decades ago, tests revealed industrial chemical contamination in sediments of Bayou d'Inde, which is part of the Calcasieu Estuary. After years of investigating how to clean up the legacy pollution, state and federal agencies OK'ed a plan to remove the toxic sediments from the bayou into an area known as Lockport Marsh.

PPG removed the contamination and is in the process of putting clean sediment over it. Both the company and regulators said it's secure.

Axiall's Mike Huber said the contamination is not going anywhere.

"Engineers, ... consultants, everybody said you build up this road, put the sediment in there -- it's going to stay put," he said.

However, longtime environmentalist Mike Tritico said he never agreed with the plan and worries that recent and future rains could cause the contaminated mud to get back out into the environment.

 "Moving a bunch of poison sediment from Bayou d'Inde into a wetland area does not get rid of the poisoned sediment. It puts it where it can be spread again, if not right away, eventually," he said.

"We're out here today and looked at it. It was here before the storm that we recently had, it's still here. It didn't go anywhere and it won't... the way it's designed, the sediment will always be here, particularly after we plant wetlands on top of it," Huber said.

David Richard, a wetlands consultant, agreed all of the sediment that was put out here is still here, despite the recent rain events.

"Once the contaminated soils out of Bayou d'Inde were deposited then clean soils were put on top of that. Those soils are not moving, it's just a layered effect. The only time we could have any movement is when we're pumping and when we're dredging. Dredging was stopped when the high water event came about," he said.

Wetlands planted earlier are thriving and there will be more -- and wildlife seems to be plentiful -- as dredging to cover the area with clean sediment continues.

The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality said it had inspectors on the ground after concerns were raised about the rain last week.

In a Skype interview from Baton Rouge, DEQ spokesman Greg Langley said they are confident no pollution has or will escape.

"The remediation program was designed and approved by the EPA and is designed to withstand a hurricane and any kind of weather that we might have in Louisiana.  So we've had somebody out there on the 17th and looked at it," Langley said. "There was no sign that anything had washed out or any kind of contamination escaped containment."

 Langley said as far as DEQ is concerned, the remediation effort is 100 percent effective. He said they will continue to monitor the situation and that anyone with concerns is welcome to call DEQ.

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