Correction: LDEQ press secretary Greg Landgley responded to media inquiry requests on Monday, April 1. It was inaccurately reported in the print version and earlier version of this story that LDEQ had not responded to media requests before press time on Tuesday, April 2.
Two months after the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) approved the controversial Feedstock Variance Request by Thermaldyne, LLC, in Port Allen, the company was court ordered to reapply for its water permit.
District Judge William Morvant signed an Order requiring LDEQ to walk back the water pollution permit issued to Thermaldyne last week. LDEQ approved for a hazardous waste variance on Jan. 10, 2019.
The Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN), which strongly opposed the variance during the public comment period, filed suit against Thermaldyne in 2018. The lawsuit claims the air and water permits submitted by Thermaldyne “flew under radar” with vague and misleading public notices.
“Thermaldyne is simply responding to refinery demand for cheap hazardous waste disposal,” Attorney Joel Waltzer, who with Clay Garside represents LEAN said. “...Our real issue lies with DEQ, in whom we entrust our health and environment. DEQ must do its job and answer to the people. Why would DEQ do anything else, given the pollution Baton Rouge already endures?”
The Order requires Thermaldyne to list the contaminants it proposes to release into the Port Allen Waterway and DEQ to publish a public notice which fairly informs the public.
Judge Morvant rejected DEQ’s argument that LEAN and the public failed to respond to its public notice in time and that DEQ could issue the permit without requiring the full disclosure of pollutants the facility would emit.
Thermaldyne is located at the 200-acre industrial park just south of the Highway 190 bridge. It is also the site of the recently established USA Rail terminal. No operations have begun at the facility, although Thermaldyne can operate under this permit if they transport their waste water somewhere for proper disposal, according to LDEQ.
The company specializes in the remediation of all types of hazardous, non-hazardous and listed waste streams, such as oil refineries, chemical plants, offshore drilling rigs, and various brownfield sites. Thermaldyne uses vacuum-assisted thermal disposition to extract reusable oil products from materials like tank bottoms, which are typically shipped for disposal or minimal recycling. Industries rely on this technology to safely and efficiently remediate waste into clean, reusable material.
Since Jan. 2018, LDEQ issued three feedstock variances for hazardous waste materials, LDEQ Press Secretary Greg Langley said. Once of those permits was issued to Thermaldyne, and two were renewed by other companies which already held permits.
Public officials and residents have held on to split opinions regarding the environmental friendliness of Thermaldyne.
Lifelong Port Allen resident David Leblanc read a letter of opposition asking for an end to the “industrial takeover of our homeland” with more than 100 resident signatures.
Parish President Riley “PeeWee” Berthelot, Parish Council Member Barry Hugghins and Senior Vice President of Business Development at Baton Rouge Area Chamber Russell Richardson were among the few who expressed support for the variance during the public comment period.
Hugghins, who has a background in chemistry, chemical engineering, and thermal desorption, supports the variance because the company is a “legitimate recycler.” Parish President Berthelot took several tours of the facility and said he has no problem supporting the variance.
Thermaldyne representatives did not respond to phone calls regarding the court order.