Myrtle Grove/Ironton residents voice opposition to RAMAug 19th, 2013 | By Candace Griffin | Category: news
Residents of Ironton and Myrtle Grove showed up in full force last week to protest the issuing of a Coastal Use Permit to RAM Terminals LLC. by the Department of Natural Resources. This permit would bring them one step closer to construction, and residents fear that if RAM is allowed to build their facility, it will have detrimental effects on the surrounding communities.
“My legacy is threatened and I don’t like it, I don’t like it at all,” said Andrea Declouet, a resident of Ironton. “My legacy needs to survive. I want my grandchildren to be able to grow up in a community with clean air and clean water—it’s our God-given right.”
In 2011, RAM purchased 602 acres of land between the grain elevator and the community of Ironton to develop a coal terminal.
“Bulk like coal or wood chips will arrive by barge or ship, then be moved by conveyor into the storage facility,” said Gil Chatagnier, President of Lanier & Associates— the consulting engineers for RAM Terminals.“Then, when an empty ship arrives, the product will be taken out of storage, blended, and then loaded onto the ship.”
The proposed facility will be located at the extreme northern end of the property, which is about a mile north of Ironton, and the sediment diversion proposed in the State’s Master Plan is set to be located on the RAM property midway between Ironton and the actual work site.
Chatagnier presented some details about the proposed facility
to, along with status update information:
• It will create 150 permanent jobs, and nearly 300 temporary construction jobs.
• The expected payroll once operational will be $16 million annually
• Environmental safety procedures to minimize coal dust include keeping the coal wet, minimizing the free fall distance from the spout to the conveyor belt, and keeping the coal covered while being transported.
Two facilities, similar to the one that RAM is proposing, have existed in the Parish for several years and are currently undergoing expansion.
Not in our backyard Ironton and Myrtle Grove residents were joined by a barrage of environmental activists who came to the two public hearings from as far as New York and Houston.
“Letting RAM build a coal terminal here would be a crime against humanity and a sin against God,” said Reverend Tyrone Edwards of Phoenix. “We don’t want this in our backyards.”
The public hearing’s format was a presentation by Chatagnier followed by a public comment period; it was not a question-and-answer session. So many of the concerns brought up by both the activists and the locals where not specifically addressed.
Their concerns included:
• Coal dust- Residents were skeptical of the safety measures outlined by Chatagnier, and were concerned about breathing in the substance as well as the possibility of dust settling on the nearby grain at the grain elevator.
• Politics- Many were angry that RAM purchased theproperty in 2011, but have just found out within the last year about the plans for the site. They expressed feelings of betrayal by Plaquemines Parish Government, who they claim are putting industry before people.
“Everything is about money, when are we going to start thinking about people here,” said Michael Torrita, a Myrtle Grove resident. “We’re in cancer alley! Who the hell wants to live here, and die from this? You can make millions, but if you die you can’t spend it!”
• Coal transported by rail- Speakers where concerned that rail cars transporting coal through the Parish will not be covered— releasing coal dust into the air, and will cause severe traffic delays as it goes through downtown Belle Chasse and Gretna.
• Loss of historical community- Ironton was founded by freedmen after the Civil War, making it a historic site in the Parish. Rose Jackson, an Ironton resident and member of the Louisiana Environmental Action Network, said the RAM property was at one time a community called St. Rosalie. Although there are no more homes on this site, burial grounds remain.
“I’ve seen the congregation go through a whole lot,” said Reverend Dr. Haywood Johnson of St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church. “Every Sunday I sit with a broken heart, I’m discouraged by Parish officials. We shouldn’t be having this meeting now… it should have been one or two years ago.”
• Insurance- Attorney Michelle Hall, who is representing a group of Parish ministers, demanded that if RAM is allowed to proceed with the coal terminal, they should be required to get insurance for “risks likely and foreseeable” and “commercial failure risk.”
• Spills, accidents and damage from hurricanes- Residents questioned how the river and nearby communities would be protected in the event of a hurricane.
DNR said it will make its final decision on whether or not they will issue the permit by August 30, but will still be accepting written public comments until August 26. To comment please email email@example.com or mail a written statement to the Department of Natural Resources Office of Coastal Management: P.O. Box 44487, Baton Rouge, 70804. DNR requests that you include this routing number for both—P20120190.