Residents living near Bunge Grain Elevator in Destrehan who are worried that the company applied for a permit in November to release more emissions into the air don’t need to be concerned, according to a spokesman from the company.
Jerry Gibson, plant manager for Bunge, says that their emission levels won’t change.
“The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality changed their guidelines, so we applied for a permit to follow along with their new rule change,” Gibson said. “We have alerted everyone on the council that this public notice would be coming out.”
Gibson says the company isn’t doing anything different or releasing anything more into the air from what they did before.
“There will be no change in our operations,” he said. “Our levels of emissions into the air won’t increase.”
A public hearing will be held on Dec. 15 if enough residents comment about the permit that Bunge has applied for.
In 2006, Bunge was ordered to install new low-emission burners as part of a settlement and consent agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency, which accused the company of violating air quality standards at 12 grain elevators and grain processing plants in eight states.
The EPA announced the $13.9 million settlement, saying the agreement would eliminate more than 2,000 tons of harmful emissions into the air in those states.
The federal complaint accused Bunge and three subsidiaries of building additions to their plants to substantially increase the amount of pollutants released into the atmosphere without getting a permit to approve those releases. The pollutants included solvent n-hexane and nitrogen oxide, a lung irritant that causes smog and can react with other hazardous elements.
Bunge admitted no wrongdoing in that settlement.
The grain elevator in Destrehan, built in the 1950s, employs more than 100 workers, according to St. Charles Parish figures.
Residents rallied against Bunge in May because they didn’t want the company to expand its railcar system to take in more grain.
Gibson came before the council requesting that Bunge be allowed to rezone property from single-family residential to light manufacturing to expand a railcar holding yard from a capacity of 50 cars to 100 cars.
But residents who live between Bunge and the ADM Growmark grain elevators made every effort to block the company’s plan.
Residents said the grain elevator was improperly zoned and permitted in the first place, and because of that, Bunge was under less strict guidelines than normally required when a grain elevator comes before the parish to make changes. Under its current zoning, there is no one-mile buffer zone. Proper zoning would have prevented Bunge from expanding within one mile of homes.