Louisiana DEQ fails on water report

greenspun.com : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Published on 3/17/00

State DEQ fails on water report

The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality has received a failing grade on the Clean Water Report Card -- another example of the state DEQ's failure to protect the quality of our air, water and land.

The report card, which ranks Louisiana as second worst in the nation in terms of number of expired water quality permits, was issued by Friends of the Earth and the Environmental Working Group, two nonprofit groups based in Washington, D.C.

The report said 116 of Louisiana's 247 major permits for discharging pollutants into the state's waterways have missed the renewal deadlines. That's 47 percent of industrial facilities holding major permits that are continuing to operate on permits that impose standards that are likely more lax than would be required under new permits.

Water quality permits set out the amount of pollution that can be dumped into the nation's waters. The permits are tailored to the size of the polluter, the toxicity of the pollution, the technology available to clean it up and the quality and size of the waterway that receives the discharges.

The permits must be renewed every five years. If a permit isn't renewed on the deadline, the facility must stick with the pollution limits in the expired permit.

Because the Clean Water Act frequently imposes more stringent limitations on pollution over time, delays in renewing the permits often allow industries to comply with lax standards, the two environmental groups said.

Although industries are sometimes the beneficiaries of the delays, a spokesman for the groups said regulators are primarily to blame for the problem.

The Louisiana DEQ said it is aggressively working to eliminate the backlog of expired permits. The environmental agency said it took over the permitting function from the federal Environmental Protection Agency in 1996 and has been hampered by insufficient human and financial resources.

A spokesman for the Louisiana Chemical Association described the permit backlog as a problem, but said it has minimal implications on the environment. "If facilities are applying for their permits in a timely fashion and if they are operating under permitted levels that already exist, I don't think there is any grave danger," he said.

We concede the points made by both the DEQ and the spokesman for the industries. However, the failing report underscores once again the less-than-aggressive stance the state DEQ takes in protecting our environment.

Louisiana has a lot of water bodies that are considered impaired, but the DEQ seems to take little or no action until pushed by the federal EPA or other outside forces.

The latest failing grade is not the end of the world for Louisiana's environment, but it is one more indication that the state DEQ is not doing enough to protect the water, air and land that is a legacy for our children and grandchildren.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), March 18, 2000

Moderation questions? read the FAQ