DEQ investigating after Port Allen cement plant linked to problems for homeowners

PORT ALLEN – A cement plant that was built less than a year ago is causing problems for residents in the subdivisions near the Port Allen plant.

One of the residents, Andrea Martin, said over the last several months, some of her belongings in the backyard, particularly her pool cover, have been coated with a white powder. Quality Concrete is located near Riverside Estates and Oak Alley subdivisions.

Over the last month, Martin said she has developed health issues, which she attributes to Quality Concrete’s output.

“I’ve been dealing with sinus issues for over a month,” she said. “My two kids have been dealing with headaches for over a month. The cement plant is less than 300 feet from my pool. We’re supposed to sit in our backyards and breath this stuff?”

According to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), Silicosis, which is permanent lung damage, is caused by breathing in fine particles containing crystalline silica. Crystalline silica is found in materials such as concrete, masonry, and rock.

Martin said she believes the residents who are impacted did not have enough of a chance to fight against the cement plant before it was built.

“The parish permitting, or ordinance, they only notify adjoining landowners,” she said. “And there’s a person that owns like a 30-foot-wide strip of land that the parish uses as a servitude. She’s the only one that was ever notified. None of us as residents were given an opportunity to fight this cement plant being put in.”

Martin said she suspects the volume at the concrete plant has increased over the last few months because of the Intracoastal bridge being replaced.

“A couple of months ago, they started pouring all the concrete and supposedly that’s why this concrete plant was put here for the close proximity to the Intracoastal bridge project,” she said. “They’re pouring concrete, so I think the volume of concrete increased in the last two months. The activity is much greater. The amount of trucks coming in and out is greater. It’s really severely impacting these houses that have been here since 1990.”

“I’m the only one in my neighborhood that I’m aware of who has a pool cover,” she added. “And so because my pool is covered, I can prove this white film is settling on everything. Everybody else is like ‘Well, I’ve not noticed anything’ but nobody has something black that’s getting a white ring on it like a pool cover is.”

Martin and other residents affected met with parish officials privately Thursday morning to voice their concerns.

According to Martin, as a result of the Thursday meeting between a few of the residents and West Baton Rouge Parish Public Works Director Kevin Durbin, an email was sent from Durbin to the residents stating: “Due to this subsequent discovery, I will no longer be able to communicate with your citizen group without going through parish legal counsel.

In the email, Durbin said he found out after the meeting that someone who attended the meeting was not an immediate neighbor and was possibly an attorney.

Martin said the attorney, who was present at the meeting, identified himself by name and provided his residence as living in Baton Rouge. 

“This position is now being taken by Mr. Durbin despite Mr. Durbin’s repeated recommendation (on at least three occasions) that each of the residents seek legal counsel to address the civil liability of businesses causing damages to the residents as well as the properties located nearby,” she said.

The parish attorney is Lou Delahaye. Assistant District Attorney for the 18th JDC Kristen Canezaro is the parish council’s special legal counsel.

Unfiltered with Kiran reached out to the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) for an update on the situation.

A spokesperson with LDEQ said someone from LDEQ visited the site and some issues were noted during the investigation. The Department is working with the facility to resolve those issues. If the facility fails to comply, the investigation will move into the enforcement phase.

One of the issues noted, according to the spokesperson was dust was observed blowing off departing trucks. The spokesperson said the site operator is working with LDEQ to implement dust control measures and make sure the vacuum system used to reduce dust in loading/unloading operations is operational. LDEQ will conduct follow-up visits.

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