Diesel tanks toxic for Parish landsOct 19th, 2011 | By William Dilella | Category: news
Underground, unused diesel tanks on the stretch of Highway 11 land, damaged further in Tropical Storm Lee, have been spilling their contents out and their toxins are seeping up. Now, the substances are spreading to neighboring properties. But the potential cost of the tanks removal, as well as the damage the contents have caused, forced the Council members to consider if the project should be funded by the Parish, or executed by a state or federal agency.
The tanks located at 34984 Highway 11 in Buras are on private land, which falls in Councilman Byron Marinovich’s district. Marinovich said at the October 13 Council meeting, that the broken tanks are left over from a pervious owner. And the current owner has thus far done nothing to alleviate the potentially toxic problem.
“We’re looking at six tanks there,” Marinovich said. “And we don’t know how much hydrocarbons are in the tanks… and this is possibly ruining the ground water [too].”
Hydrocarbons, which are a component of oil and certain fuels, are toxic and can cause damage to the central nervous system or kill.
Joe Simon, with the Environmental Auditors of America, testified to Council members that there is no way to be sure of the contents in these tanks, or the extent of any potential damage, until those tanks are actually dug up.
“We just can’t know, and that is the unknown [factor],” Simon said.
Now, the seeping toxins coming up from those tanks is spreading onto the neighboring properties, prompting Marinovich to request council action that would permanently remove the tanks.
However, the land is not a parish asset, and several councilmembers argued that the clean-up, especially such a complicated emergency cleaning, should be shouldered by a state agency, like the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). But a representative from DEQ had informed the council that no funding exists with-in the agency for problems like this, and the Parish’s only possible recourse would be with the Environmental Protection Agency.
But appealing to the EPA takes time, time that Marinovich said the residents don’t have to deal with this emergency situation.
“We’re asking for under $100,000 to get this started,” Marinovich said, and continued to cite how the state agencies like DEQ have come into situations like this,”start pointing fingers, and nothing gets done.”
The cost noted on the ordinance was $73,000 for remediation of diesel that has leaked, as well as the removal of the tanks.
Councilman Anthony Buras, District 5, had some trepidation about beginning a project on the Parish dime, which could quickly escalate into more than the local municipality could handle.
“I see a snowball coming,” Buras said. “Once we scratch the surface, I can see this snowballing into something this government can’t afford.”
Simon, speaking for the Environmental Auditors group, noted that the Parish has already been spending money to alleviate the toxic problem.
“The Parish is spending money every time sending out the fire department to deal with the clean-up.”
And every one of those clean ups, Marinovich said, comes at the cost of almost $17,000 to the parish. And with one of the tanks severed completely in half, the variables and dangers of what is getting out are rising.
“We really don’t know what the cost will be,” Marinovich admitted. “But this is an emergency situation.” And went on to say that the Parish would be wasting money to not remove the tanks and spend tens of thousands removing the diesel every time it crops up. “[So we’re] not just raking leaves for $17,000 remediation each time.”
Councilman P.V. Griffin, District 1, sided with Marinovich on moving for prompt action, over possible fiscal concerns.
“For the security and good will of the people… let’s go in, clean it up and worry about the cost later,” Griffin said.
The Council voted to move forward on the project by a vote of 8-0, with Councilman Burghart Turner of District 6 abstaining from the vote.