Louisiana Governor Requests Capitol Lakes be Designated as Superfund Site to Receive Federal Funding for Pollution Removal

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Published December 20, 2022

Louisiana Governor Requests Capitol Lakes be Designated as Superfund Site to Receive Federal Funding for Pollution Removal

Louisiana – The state of Louisiana has applied to have the severely polluted Capitol Lakes designated as a Superfund site, allowing for government oversight, funding, and cleaning of the lakes. The lakes have been contaminated with polychlorobiphenyls (PCBs) since 1983, and have been deemed unsafe for swimming or fishing. 

On December 19, 2022, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as the final step necessary to identify the extremely contaminated Capitol Lakes as a Superfund site, making them eligible for government cleaning, oversight, and money.

“The lakes are a wonderful asset for our state, but we have known for quite some time that they have been plagued by pollution,” said Governor Edwards. “We now have a tremendous opportunity to breathe new life into the lakes that will make them a healthier environment for wildlife that inhabit them and the many people who would use them recreationally. The process will take some time, which is why we must move forward with getting things started. This is an investment in the future of the lakes and everyone who enjoys them now and for years to come.”

Since 1983, when the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) examined a report of PCB-laden oil entering the lakes, polychlorobiphenyls (PCBs) contamination has been a problem in the lakes on the north side of the Capitol Complex. Since then, LDEQ, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and the Louisiana Department of Health have put signs around the lakes warning against consuming fish from the lakes or coming into contact with the waters or sediments. The initial contamination was encased in silt, and LDEQ experts hoped that natural attenuation would remove PCBs from the food chain. In 2017, however, LDEQ tests of fish tissue at the location revealed that contamination was still present in the water column.

In response to these results in 2017, the LDEQ began studying alternative remediation options, however, the state’s finances were insufficient for a complete restoration. The organization requested assistance from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“It’s an involved process, and there haven’t been financial assets and political will to get it done before now. Governor John Bel Edwards has refused to let those challenges stop the remediation of this valuable resource. We are now on the way to removing the impairments to recreational and fishing uses on the Capitol Lakes,” said LDEQ Secretary Dr. Chuck Carr Brown.

“This investment will transform the Capitol Lakes area into a place that is healthy and safe for both wildlife and residents,” said Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome. “Local leaders and citizens have long advocated for improving the quality of the lakes because they are an enormous cultural asset for our community. When the process is complete, we will have another place in the heart of Baton Rouge where families and individuals can enjoy our environment.”

The EPA conducted its own study of the site and told LDEQ in August 2022 that the preliminary Hazard Ranking System (HRS) score for the Capitol Lakes site was sufficient to warrant inclusion on the National Priorities List (NPL). A letter of consent from the state, signed by Governor Edwards, will permit the proposed listing to be published in the Federal Register in the spring, at which time a comment period will begin.

Once the comment period has ended and all comments have been answered, sometime in 2023, the procedure can proceed to establish a remediation remedy and gain money for the job. Three to five years may pass before the actual remedial work commences.

Follow this link to read the full letter.