Old shipyard site proposed for Superfund cleanup
HOUMA, La. (AP) — A south Houma lot that was used by an oilfield fabricator has been proposed as a federal Superfund cleanup site.
The Courier reports (http://bit.ly/1mIqGTZ ) that the Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday proposed adding the Delta Shipyard lot off Industrial Boulevard to a priority list of the nation's uncontrolled hazardous waste sites.
The program gives the federal government the authority to investigate and clean areas where abandoned contamination is a threat to the environment or its inhabitants.
The 165-acre site at the top of the Houma Navigation Canal served as a repair yard for cargo and fishing boats as well as oil barges during the oil industry boom of the '70s.
The EPA said oily waste stored in unlined, earthen pits has contaminated nearby soil and water.
More than 30,000 cubic yards of hazardous material remain in these pits. The agency said the pits may also be a disposal site for toxic oilfield drilling byproducts.
Nearby land has been contaminated with toxic metals such as arsenic, benzene and lead.
"Contaminated sites like the one in Houma directly affect their surrounding environment and residents," EPA Regional Administrator Ron Curry said. "It's vital to the community and to EPA's mission that we restore and protect the land by addressing this pollution."
Today the shipyard's former footprint is mostly occupied by modern oilfield service providers, the landscape still dominated by cranes and stacks of drill pipe casings behind chain-link fences.
In general, the sites that are included on the national priorities list are among the most contaminated and complex sites in the country," said EPA spokeswoman Jennah Durant. "It's not necessarily what amounts of contaminants. It is things like: Is this site going to get cleaned up other ways? Is it a danger to the surrounding community?"
Durant said the complexity of the contamination and of finding responsible parties contribute to the decision to designate a site for the Superfund. The state Department of Environmental Quality petitioned the EPA to consider the site for the list.
The shipyard's parent company tanked with the fortunes of many others during the '80s oil bust. It's unclear who the federal government could hold responsible for cleanup costs