Jefferson Parish wants state action on noxious odors

Recurring noxious odor complaints from parts of Jefferson Parish and New Orleans had some parish officials pushing the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality to take a harder line with possible violators.

Council Chairman Chris Roberts asked DEQ officials to address the council Wednesday in the wake of widespread complaints of a foul odor in Algiers, Terrytown, Metairie and Chalmette on April 3. Roberts said is he concerned about that incident, and odor complaints have increased this year far above regular levels. Residents have complained of smells and a yellow residue on their cars that is worrisome, he said.

“It seems as though we’re having this occurrence on a more frequent basis,” Roberts said. “It seems to me that it happens much more frequently than the norm.”

DEQ Assistant Secretary Cheryl Nolan said the state has determined that the April 3 odor was tied to a release of wastewater at the Exxon Mobil refinery in Chalmette.

Additionally, there have been releases of sulfur dioxide from that facility and a nearby Valero Refinery. Nolan said all those incidents are under investigation by DEQ, which will make a determination if any additional action is needed.

Roberts also complained that responding to the odor complaints can cost the parish money because it has to deploy firefighters and other personnel. He asked if there is a way for the parish to get reimbursed by the responsible companies.

Nolan said the state can be reimbursed, but it can’t collect that money for the parish.

“We can’t require a company to reimburse you,” Nolan said. “I’m not sure how it’s set up on a local level.”

She also noted that since November 2011, DEQ has had 37 complaints about odors in Jefferson Parish.

Councilman Elton Lagasse asked if the state can provide officials with documents they can use if they need to pursue a legal solution since it can’t assist the parish in recouping money.

Parish President John Young wanted assurances from the state that the releases have not been a safety hazard for residents and that violators will be pursued.