LDEQ draft permit rattles neighbors of hazardous waste disposal site

COLFAX – Sliska Larry read the proposed operating permit for the expanded Clean Harbors hazardous waste disposal site, less than 2 miles from her home, with her 9-year-old grandson at her side. She instinctively pulled him closer, as if to shield him, as she absorbed its details.

“It’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” Larry said.

The preliminary draft permit, which the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality issued last week, allows Clean Harbors to continue the open burning and open detonation of materials for at least another eight months. The facility disposes of outdated munitions from the shuttered National Guard training site at Camp Minden and old fireworks from Disney World. 

Larry and her neighbors in the small enclave of mostly Black residents just outside of Colfax known as The Rock have reported a deep slate of medical issues, ranging from asthma and allergies to cancer. Many of their illnesses are on the list of presumptive conditions  the Department of Defense provided to veterans exposed to burn pit victims. 

Larry’s 15-year-old grandnephew is afflicted with what North Carolina State University researcher  Jennifer Richmond-Bryant told the family is likely chemical-related acne caused by several harsh compounds found in the burn pit waste streams. The boy’s pediatrician couldn’t explain it, Larry said. 

Just recently, after her grandson’s teacher noticed he was blinking frequently and staring fixedly, the third grader was evaluated by a neurologist for seizures. Richmond-Bryant told the family both conditions are associated with the neurotoxins and hazardous gasses in the air they breathe, Larry said.

“The people in The Rock are not dumb,” she said. “We do not accept a permit that allows Clean Harbors Colfax to continue to poison our kids. Would you?”