ST. GABRIEL- Retired chemical plant worker Peter Booker believes a nearby recycling facility is the chief cause a strong smell in his neighborhood. "It's really bad sometimes," he said.
The company in question, Adsorbent Solutions, sits in an industrial park about a quarter mile from Booker's house. The facility often emits a thick cloud of smoke. Booker's and many of his neighbors blame the company for causing strong odors and health problems among the residents.
"They burn at different times of the night and sometimes during the day," said Booker.
Adsorbent cleans and recycles toxic carbon filters from large industrial plants. It's material that would otherwise end up in a landfill. Some of the toxins attached to the carbon could cause cancer according to environmentalists, but only a small amount makes it into the atmosphere.
"What we use is essentially an incinerator," said Dylan Waguespack, a representative for the company. "This one has a 99.9 percent efficiency rate and we are trying to upgrade it to a 99.99 percent efficiency rate."
The upgrade is part of a proposed expansion. If approved, even more toxic carbon filters could be cleaned at the facility. The state has yet to approve the permits, but the real fight will be at a city's rezoning hearing next week. The St. Gabriel council will vote on the expansion Thursday night. Environmentalists are helping the residents to fight the company.
"This company has not been compliant with the Clean Air Act and they've been caught on multiple occasions," said retired Lt. General Russel Honore.
Despite its past violations, Waguespack maintains the company is not the cause of the detested odor. There are several industries in the area and he believes anyone of them could be the true culprit.
"We're installing fence line air monitors because we want to know what exactly is making it off the facility into the air," said Waguespack. "We want real data we can share with the community about what air emissions are being produced and what those implications are."
Waguespack also pointed to a state regulator's report from March 20th which responded to a resident's complaint about an odor coming from Adsorbent. The regulator noted there was an odor, however it wasn't coming from the recycling plant because the wind was blowing in the wrong direction.
Residents like Booker are still opposed to industrial expansion in their area. "I don't think it's just them, it's other plants too but we don't need anymore because it's making things worse," he said.