CHALMETTE, La. (AP) — As the state Department of Environmental Quality continues to examine heightened sulfur dioxide levels in the Chalmette area, St. Bernard Parish officials and a New Orleans environmental group are putting pressure on the agency and the Environmental Protection Agency to tighten regulation of industrial plants in the parish.
Parish Chief Administrative Officer Jerry Graves tells The Times-Picayune (http://bit.ly/VmXpkw) he is "absolutely appalled at the very cavalier attitude of the DEQ and EPA officials."
DEQ officials deny they have a cozy relationship with industries in St. Bernard.
"We've issued orders to gather emissions data. We've enlisted our Mobile Air Monitoring Lab for additional monitoring. We've begun the process to get into attainment and lower emissions before the federal clock even begins ticking," said DEQ spokesman Rodney Mallet.
The EPA hourly standard for sulfur dioxide is 75 parts per billion in an hour. Because there were about 30 instances last year in which that level was surpassed, DEQ recommended that EPA designate St. Bernard as being out of compliance with standards, a designation of "nonattainment."
There have been several sulfur dioxide spikes in January above the federal standard, authorities said.
The nonprofit New Orleans-based environmental group Louisiana Bucket Brigade released a nonscientific survey this week showing 70 people in the Chalmette area have reported respiratory problems, headaches or eye irritation.
"This is an urgent situation," said Anne Rolfes, spokeswoman for the group, "The facilities should not be allowed to operate until they can assure people's health is safeguarded."
Information from: The Times-Picayune, http://www.nola.com