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Concerned citizens pack Rapides Jury meeting for answers on Dresser contamination

(KALB)
Published: Feb. 10, 2020 at 7:36 PM CST
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Concerned citizens packed Monday's Rapides Parish Police Jury meeting after TCE contamination was discovered in neighborhoods surrounding the old Dresser, LLC plant outside of Pineville.

The police jury hosted contractors for Dresser, LLC plant to explain to residents why testing for contamination is taking place.

Weeks ago, the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality said they are testing contamination from the Dresser, LLC facility that may impact local residents. LDEQ said the area specifically impacted extends from the industrial property to the east shoulder of Service Road East (Austin Dr.) in the vicinity of the residential development east of Hwy. 167, including the Aurora Park Subdivision area. They are areas outside of Pineville City limits.

In a release from the Louisiana DEQ to local residents obtained by News Channel 5, it said, "environmental contamination has been detected in the vicinity of your property or residence." The release said the main contaminant is trichloroethene, also known as trichloroethylene. They said they have indicated an elevated soil gas concentration and groundwater contamination.

In the release to residents, LDEQ said, "your drinking water is obtained from Rapides Parish Water Works District 3 and is safe." They also said no outdoor air contamination has been detected.

Contractors hired by Baker Hughes, who owns the now-shuttered facility, gave updates at the police jury meeting. John Ellis, a geologist hired by the company, said they are testing groundwater and air contamination around and in homes.

"To date, we have approximately 60 monitor wells in and around the facility. That allows us to understand the distribution of TCE and some of the other products that are in the groundwater. We are still collecting data today," said Ellis. "So again if you go out, you drive around you will see some of our equipment. So we are still trying to figure out exactly where it is. We know where the majority of it is, but we are chasing little areas in certain places."

Ellis said they have tested around 18 homes and have had to install eight air purifiers. Ellis said that decreased the presence of the compound by around 99 percent.

LDEQ said they have found no evidence of exposure to the public.

"The environmental activities were initiated proactively and continue to be conducted in close cooperation with the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality as well as with the Louisiana Department of Health," said Stephanie Price, a spokesperson for Dresser. "We take our commitments and responsibilities to health, safety and the environment seriously and are committed to continuing our environmental assessments, monitoring, testing and cleanup to protect residents in accordance with LDEQ standards"

Trichloroethylene is a colorless, volatile liquid that is non-flammable and has a sweet odor. Exposure to moderate amounts may cause headaches, dizziness, sleepiness; large amounts may cause coma and even death. LDEQ said there is strong evidence exposure could lead to cancer. The Dept. of Health and Human Services considers trichloroethylene to be a human carcinogen.

LDEQ said soil gas sampling is being conducted. They said they will also be doing sampling of indoor air in some residences to determine if the contaminant is present in area homes.

LDEQ said Dresser has initiated two remediation processes including installing wells and conducting a pilot test to treat soil by removing gas. Dresser also injected chemicals into the groundwater to break down the contaminants starting back in June 2018.

Dresser manufactured industrial valves and components at the facility. They used trichloroethylene to degrease metal components. The source of the contamination has been identified as a tank that stores the material.

Stantec and GHD are carrying out the investigation and sampling. They said testing will continue indefinitely.

Dresser, LLC manufactured and repaired pressure relief valves from 1961 to 2016. In 2011, GE Oil and Gas acquired Dresser and in 2017 they merged with Baker Hughes.

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