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Red dust flying through neighborhood, concerning some residents

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GONZALES - Red dust flying through the air in a residential area of Ascension Parish is getting the attention of at least one state agency.

The dust is flying from nearby bauxite mud ponds in Gonzales. Last Wednesday, when wind gusts were reported in the double digits, some residents of Pelican Crossing snapped photos of red dust flying through the air. It's something property owner Dempsey Pendarvis says shouldn't be happening.

"It dries up and crusts. When it crusts, the wind blows the dust on all of us," he said.

Pendarvis owns a workshop next to a waste pond full of residue from bauxite, a sedimentary rock with a high alumina content that's used as the world's main source of aluminum. The waste pond, surrounded by a levee, is owned and managed by Almatis Burnside, Inc. The ponds are eventually meant to dry and be buried or mixed with soil.

Pendarvis says he's worried about what happens when the red dust blows through the air, as it has already stained some of his property red.

"Who knows what it's doing for your lungs if we're breathing it in," he said. "There are about 600 houses here that's all going to be breathing red dust and have red stuff on their clotheslines, on the back of their houses, corroding."

Gonzales is expanding rapidly and multiple neighborhoods are popping up along LA 44. Pelican Crossing, which backs up to the waste ponds, is currently building new homes and selling lots.

One Pelican Crossing resident tells 2 On Your Side that sprinklers on top of the levee surrounding the waste pond were installed a few months ago to keep the dust damp and prevent it from blowing in the wind. Pendarvis argues that on days when the wind blows strong, more needs to be done.

"Just be a good neighbor, we're going to be neighbors whether we want it there or not. Just be a good neighbor," he said.

Tuesday, 2 On Your Side reached out to the Alumina company and did not hear back at the time the story aired. The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality says it has received some recent dust complaints and plans to respond and inspect the property soon.

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