Cecos Willow Springs site hearing set

Published: Oct. 17, 2008 at 9:56 PM CDT|Updated: Nov. 19, 2008 at 7:56 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

By Theresa Schmidt - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - For years it was at the center of environmental controversy-- the hazardous waste disposal site at Willow Springs, first known as BFI and later Cecos. Many who fought it are gone now, and younger people may not even know it's there. But some are determined to make sure the site never fades from memory.

Here in the rural community of Willow Springs north of Westlake, the tranquility makes it hard to believe there used to be a bustling, commercial hazardous waste disposal site called BFI and later Cecos. Mabel Jones was one of the first to notice it. The odors would be so strong that you couldn't stay out. We'd go inside, put a fan on, let the windows down and try to get air for us to breathe by.

But for a small sign amid the pine trees, you'd never know the site was here or that for years, hundreds of tank trucks traveled down this private road to offload hazardous wastes. Mabel finally moved away. "Everyone was dying of cancer. And so I said, well, if I'm not affected with cancer, maybe I need to move. So I moved. Because I just couldn't take it no more."

Environmentalist Mike Tritico recognized Mabel and family members, including her brother Herbert Rigmaiden, who still lives here for their community activism. They and Tritico worry that after they're long gone, the site could be forgotten and pose a hazard for those yet to come. Says Herbert, "That's going to be on the next generation of people not knowin' what's down under there. I'm really concerned about our drinking water for all the cities here."

There were surface pits along with an injection well in this area near tupelo and cypress swamps and rivers. But since the commercial operation stopped years ago the site became one of those that they maintain and monitor. Tritico wants to make sure the community is vigilant in the years to come.  "At the end of this 30 year so-called post closure period, our concern is that the company might be able to just walk away and then a generation is going to be faced with problems that the previous generations had brought under control."

Tritico and the Rigmaidens will be at an upcoming meeting dealing with the site and closure issues, hoping to assure that environmental protection will remain in place for all time.

We called the company number given on the gate at Willow Springs, but have not yet received a response to our request for a comment.

The public meeting is at six next Tuesday evening at westlake city hall.