Step One: Coal Export Terminals place materials in the river.
The black smear in the brown water on the riverbank is a pile of coal and petroleum coke from United Bulk:
The black in the middle of the brown river is a pile of spilled material that has accumulated, despite the fact that United Bulk is supposed to clean up all spilled material.
Step Two: Abandon the material for the river to sweep it away. One mile downriver, off their property, the waters that flow over the riverbank are full of coal black.
Step Three: Enter the dredge. The State and Federal government have projects that dredge the river to pump that contaminated sand into shallow waters that used to be wetlands. This cycling map shows
- where oil and gas removed the original marsh (in yellow),
- where the land was in 2005,
- where levees and restoration were planned,
- the beginning of the restoration in 2012,
- and the completion of one of the marsh creation cells in 2013.
Unfortunately, this land was contaminated with coal and petroleum coke abandoned by the United Bulk and Kinder Morgan facilities.
Lake Hermitage / Magnolia oilfield restoration (BA-42)
What we found, then, when we visited, was coal and petroleum coke throughout the site, in small bits covering about 25% of the ground cover. Pieces were sorted by size.
The larger chunks were often closest to other larger chunks. United Bulk and Kinder Morgan are liable for all spilled materials. Will the coal and pet coke, which is inert in a neutral pH, release toxic heavy metals in the acidic pH of the marsh as the soil develops? The USGS is studying the matter in the cold northwest, will our agencies on the Gulf Coast do the same?
If this kind of facility is permitted upstream of a sediment diversion, how much more will the sediment be contaminated? The Water Institute asked for that study in October 2012. Neither RAM terminal nor the State of LA did such a study before issuing multiple state permits for water and wetland impacts.
Scott Eustis, M.S. is GRN's Coastal Wetland Specialist