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Councilman says resolution to solve red dust problems in Gonzales neighborhood is in the works

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GONZALES - Four years later, and people living in a Gonzales neighborhood, Pelican Crossing, are still dealing with red dust covering their homes.

The red dust is bauxite, and it's coming from the former site of Lalumina Burnside Refinery and is covering everything in the neighborhood.

"It's in my garage, it's underneath my patio, you can't go outside barefoot because your feet will turn red, you got to wipe everything down every other day and it's red as can be," resident James Cantillo said.

Because of the dry conditions, the dust is blowing even more, covering homes, yards, and cars.

"This year, it's so bad, it's unbelievable," resident Rachel Winstead said. "I mean, just this massive red cloud and whatever way the wind is blowing it goes, it covers the road it makes it a hazard to see, if it blows towards the school, they've had to close school early because of it, and if it blows this way, you can't go outside. It gets everywhere, there's just red dust everywhere."

The residents here have been complaining about it for years. According to the DEQ, the company has installed 35 new sprinklers and have 100 more on order.

"We've done everything we can do besides stand outside a building with signs," Winstead said.

Now the council is getting involved. Joel Robert, who represents the district, is working on two resolutions that would help remove the red dust problem. The first would take existing topsoil from a levee extension project to cover the red dust.

"We'll take that topsoil if the Army Corps of Engineers approves, and cover the red dirt. That will encapsulate the dirt and prevent it from blowing all over the place when it gets dry," Ascension Parish District 2 Councilman Joel Robert said.

The second would include a company taking the red dust away completely for refining.

"Another resolution that would be a more permanent fix, they have a company that we've spoke to, they take this by-product from making aluminum and they essentially mine it. Obviously, there are some huge obstacles to overcome first, being that they do not own the property and have no deal with the current landowners," Robert said.

Robert says the council is waiting on approval from the army corps of engineers to move forward with the proposed resolution that would cover the dust in topsoil.

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