Jun 10, 2023

Colfax group sues LDEQ over ‘unlawful and arbitrary’ defining of hazardous waste incinerator

Black smoke emanates from burn pits at the Clean Harbors Colfax hazardous waste disposal facility in Grant Parish. (Photo courtesy of CSWAB)

Colfax Clean Harbors has spent decades burning hazardous waste and detonating mines into open air. Residents, who say the Grant Parish facility is responsible for giving them cancer and making them sick, are suing the state to block its latest permit approval.

The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) denied the facility’s request to continue the practice. But it approved another project, spurring health concern from residents and a lawsuit from a Colfax community group.

LDEQ green lit a new “contained burn chamber system” for Clean Harbors, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classifies as a “significant non-complier” with environmental regulations.

But instead of labeling the project as a hazardous waste incinerator — a label that carries with it requirements to protect surrounding residents and the environment — LDEQ called it a “miscellaneous unit” in the approved permit.

The community group, the Central Louisiana Coalition for a Clean and Healthy Environment, says the project meets the legal definition of a hazardous waste incinerator. And it called LDEQ’s failure to classify it as such “unlawful and arbitrary” in a lawsuit filed in the 19th Judicial District Court in East Baton Rouge Parish.

LDEQ’s alleged mislabeling “allows Clean Harbors to evade protections needed to safeguard human health and the environment,” says the group, which is being represented by Earthjustice, a national environmental law nonprofit.

Gregory Langley, press secretary for LDEQ, said the department does not comment on pending litigation.


by Claire Sullivan, Louisiana Illuminator August 18, 2023

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Claire Sullivan was a rising senior at LSU who has reported on the university, state government, environmental issues and civil rights era cold cases.