Catfish plant not pollution source
In response to concerns about possibly harmful waste flowing from the Guidry’s Catfish processing plant, town and parish officials have determined that the plant is in full compliance with regulations.
Outflow of nasty-looking materials into the deep ditch along LA 352/Henderson Hwy was the subject of a resident’s complaint voiced at the Dec. 9 town council meeting. The resident said he is concerned that ground water and soil in the area might be degraded by the materials.
Guidry’s operates a 100,000 sq. ft. plant, located just outside Henderson city limits. It is the largest catfish processing facility in Louisiana and the fifth largest producer of farm-raised catfish in the country, employing 180 workers to process catfish produced from 1,200 acres of ponds.
Both Mayor Sherbin Collette and St. Martin Parish Council member Dean LeBlanc, who attended the meeting, reported that they have researched the issue at length. Both said that the plant has a current discharge permit from the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), which has published test results on the plant’s outflow since 1984.
“The DEQ tests for nitrogen, chlorine, solids, flow volume, PH and other factors,” LeBlanc told the council. “And all testing indicates Guidry’s is well within limits and fully in compliance with regulations.”
Collette added that all chemicals discharged there are listed as biodegradable and do not adversely affect ground water, according to the DEQ. “There is often a scum on the surface of the outflow. It doesn’t look good, there is no question about that,” he said. “But DEQ is in charge and we can only rely on their information.”
Far more concerning to Collette and LeBlanc is the fact that about 40 businesses in the “end of the road” area, as the La 352 intersection with LA 347/Grand Point Hwy is called, and the area along 347 north of the interstate, have septic systems that are not in compliance.
Those businesses are a big source of sewage pollution in the ditch, Collette said. “And not one of them supported our efforts to extend sewage treatment to that area,” he added. “A few years ago we had $750,000 of grant funding in hand to expand the system there and lost it because they wouldn’t sign on.”
“DEQ is paying close attention to that area,” Councilman Jody Meche said, “They may be in for a shock if they are required to upgrade their own systems to comply with standards. DEQ is giving them some slack because they expect us to provide sewerage service extension there in the near future.”
In other business, Collette said he is skeptical about changes being made to improve drainage in the area of LA 347 under the interstate. Flooding there has forced closure of the road on several occasions since the roadway was lowered more than a foot to increase bridge clearance.
“I think there will have to be an emergency pump there permanently,” the mayor said. “It flooded sometimes even before they made it lower, but they think it will drain now. Well find out.”
Drainage improvement along the whole system is what Collette thinks is needed. He is advocating a major enlargement of the coulee at a choke point south of Henderson Hwy to provide a retention area for flood water.
The state Department of Transportation and Development is planning to improve the flow in the ditch by extending the large box culvert that was added at the end of the road all the way to Cotton Gin Road. Beyond that point, larger culverts will be installed at some road crossings.