After finding a “tar ball-like substance” on the property, fumes from decaying petroleum and oil seeping into a ditch, the planned Saints Place Subdivision in Destrehan is on hold.
The 58-lot project is part of 310 Development owner Todd Trosclair’s larger mixed-use development planned on the former Pan American Refinery property, but came into question when the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) requested more soil samples. The state agency says it wants to ensure the site is safe for residential use.
LDEQ spokesman Greg Langley confirmed the samples were provided.
Project architect Joey Murray said an environmental consulting engineer has been hired to assist with testing and work with both parish and state officials to clear the way for the project.
In December, the St. Charles Parish Planning Commission was to consider the construction plan for the development, but instead put it on hold in anticipation of getting more environmental information about the site from Murray.
Trosclair needs the approval to begin construction of Saints Place, which Murray said they hope will begin in spring of this year.
Murray said he’s meeting with LDEQ next week to discuss test results, but he anticipates the discussion will focus on remediation if any issues arise. This would also address the tar balls, which he anticipates involves taking measures to prevent them from getting into the water supply.
“There were a number of roadways disturbed in that area and those roadways were old asphalt,” he said of routine material remaining from them. “It got clumped up with dirt and made tar-like balls.”
An LDEQ field reports soil and water samples have been taken on the 40-acre subdivision site on Dec. 23, as well as notes construction activities were underway on the site.
“They were digging up soil, dozing sand in the bed and preparing to add additional concrete,” according to the field report.
Murray said they did do the work, but it’s routine required to access it, and do survey and topographical work. He also noted the most recent owner, BP, cleared the location a number of times.
The entire location, estimated at 1,400 acres total, was an oil refinery from 1914 to 1958. The refinery has been dismantled and the location became a wooded area that was remediated. The site rests behind Plantation View Medical Offices on River Road at I-310 with a portion of it purchased by Trosclair
Murray added the entire refinery site has assigned uses – residential, commercial and/or industrial, which created concerns about the neighboring 200-unit apartment complex, a $25 million project.
A Nov. 26 LDEQ report states, “Workers excavating for utilities installation had broken a buried pipe that released several hundred gallons of petroleum-contaminated water into the trench, as well as unidentified concrete wall/vault. This wall was unbroken and intact despite excavations.”
Murray said the pipe was broken, but did not release this much water.
Concerns like these raised by the state agency put Trosclair’s application for a storm water discharge permit on hold, too. But Murray said they also are working on resolving it to proceed with work.