Waste cleanup scheduled at Marine Shale Processors

Advocate file photo by BRUCE SCHULTZ -- The Marine Shale Processors plant sits idle on Bayou Boeuf near the Amelia community in St. Mary Parish in this 1999 photo. Cleanup work at the site is scheduled to resume this month, about 16 years after the plant closed.
Advocate file photo by BRUCE SCHULTZ -- The Marine Shale Processors plant sits idle on Bayou Boeuf near the Amelia community in St. Mary Parish in this 1999 photo. Cleanup work at the site is scheduled to resume this month, about 16 years after the plant closed.

Marine Shale tanks to be dismantled

Environmental cleanup work is scheduled to resume this month in St. Mary Parish at Marine Shale Processors, an abandoned hazardous waste incinerator where old tanks and equipment have sat dormant since the controversial facility closed in 1996.

Crews will begin emptying the industrial waste from the old tanks and dismantling equipment at the 7-acre site near Amelia, the state Department of Environmental Quality announced Thursday.

“The goal is to get the property to a condition where it can be put back into commerce,” DEQ attorney Chris Ratcliff said.

Marine Shale closed in 1996 amid a legal battle with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and DEQ.

The company claimed it had a process to transform oil field waste into an aggregate material safe to use for road construction.

Federal regulators labeled the company a “sham recycler” and moved to shut Marine Shale down for not having the proper permits for hazardous waste disposal.

The effort to clean up the site has continued for about 16 years as the litigation wore on and regulators developed a plan and worked to secure funds from Marine Shale and others to pay for the work.

“It’s been a frustratingly slow process, and we’ve done our best to move it along,” Ratcliff said.

The first phase of the cleanup project was in 2007 and 2008 when crews emptied and removed several waste tanks that were leaking or in danger of falling apart.

The next phase beginning this month is to empty and remove the remaining tanks and most of the structures at the site, a project expected to take up to 100 days, according to DEQ.

Once the Marine Shale site is cleared, soil and groundwater tests will be conducted to determine what other remediation measures are needed, DEQ said.

There is no timeline for completion of the cleanup effort and no firm estimate for the total bill.

The earlier work cost about $2 million and the work beginning this month will cost about $4.7 million, according to figures from DEQ.

Some of the funding comes from about $6.5 million that Marine Shale paid into a court registry several years ago while the litigation was pending and then forfeited as part of a settlement.

Marine Shale is now insolvent, and any additional cleanup expenses will be paid by a group of 17 companies that sent waste to Marine Shale to be processed, Ratcliff said.