Alsen / St Irma Lee

A small rural community where some residents still have horses has become the neighbor to over a dozen industrial facilities and three Super Fund sites.

Alsen is an unincorporated community in East Baton Rouge Parish. In 2000, Alsen had a population of 22,106 that was predominantly African-American. The community sits at the beginning of Louisiana’s industrial corridor, located just north of the former Mount Pleasant plantation (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2006).

In 1950, the area was zoned for industrial development, drawing petrochemical companies and landfills. In 1964, Tim Alexander opened an industrial waste disposal pit, Petro Processors Inc. (PPI) utilized by companies like Dow, Ethyl, and Exxon among others. PPI stopped receiving waste in 1980 and was placed on the National Priorities List of Superfund Sites in 1983 (West Virginia University 1994). As of September 2022, the site remediation is ongoing.

In 1969, Rollins Environmental Services, Inc. opened a hazardous waste facility that took in waste from over 100 chemical companies across the southeastern United States. One of the projects Rollins proposed was burning polychlorinated biphenyl compounds (PCBS). In 1987, Alsen resident Mary McCastle and other community members filed a lawsuit against Rollins for the damages caused by the pollution. The case was settled outside of the court, but it set precedent for how communities can be certified as a class in a lawsuit. Rollins was continually denied permits and was eventually put out of business (Women Pioneers of the Louisiana Environmental Movement 2013).

In 1989, Rollins Environmental Services applied for a permanent operation permit after years of operating on temporary permits; along with an expansion permit, which would have made them the largest hazardous waste landfill in the nation. Alsen resident and LEAN board member Florence Robinson used mapping techniques to show correlation between the deteriorating health of the people of Alsen, and the hazardous waste being dumped and burned nearby. Robinson won the Heinz award for her environmental activism in the early 1990s (Women Pioneers of the Louisiana Environmental Movement 2013).

Adjacent to Alsen is a small community called St. Irma Lee. The two are separated by Ronaldson Field Landfill, which was first permitted to operate as a landfill in 1998. Significant local opposition was voiced, as some residents lived within 300 feet of the large waste piles. When Ronaldson Fields permit was up for renewal in 2018, Alsen residents and environmental groups worked to stop the renewal from happening (The Advocate 2018)

Despite frequent complaints and issues voiced from residents, the LDEQ said that Ronaldson Field was up to compliance on all levels. After taking time to review complaints from the community and other documents the 10-year permit renewal was granted to Ronaldson Field in July of 2020 (LDEQ Permit Status).

News Story

Pollution concerns about this Louisiana swamp were raised decades ago. A new plan could help.

9/19/2022
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Florence Robinson

Florence Robinson

5/5/2020
video
Mary Veales

Mary Veales

5/4/2020
video
Metro Council Meeting Oct. 10, 2018

Metro Council Meeting Oct. 10, 2018

5/3/2020
Infographic

East Baton Rouge TRI Facilities

4/30/2020
Infographic

Top 5 Chemicals Released in East Baton Rouge Parish

4/30/2020
audio
Mary McCastle Interview

Mary McCastle Interview

4/22/2020
Link

Ol' Man River or Cancer Alley?

9/28/2019
News Story

Baton Rouge councilwoman says landfill causing cancer, but health experts say evidence lacking

12/15/2018
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Health Consultation: Review of Groundwater Data

1/14/2014
News Story

McCastle v. Rollins Environmental Services, Inc.

5/11/2013
News Story

The reluctant warriors

5/22/2000
News Story

North Baton Rouge Environmental Association Opposes Landfill

4/24/2000
News Story

Battle against Exxon expansion

5/3/1999
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Robinson V Ieyoub

12/28/1998
News Story

Toxics march organizers slate environmental fair

11/8/1998
News Story

Polluter Secrecy Bill Defeated, 1997

5/3/1997
News Story

Proposed Toxic Waste Incinerator Alsen, LA (Petro-Processors)

8/31/1993
News Story

SFI Permit in Alsen

5/3/1993
News Story

HON Rule Hearing

2/17/1993
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A tale of cleanup plan gone bad

3/24/1991
News Story

State slow to score with Superfund

3/24/1991
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The Wasteland; Abandoned toxic dumps brimming with hazards

3/24/1991
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DEQ gives Rollins notice of violation

12/14/1988
News Story

Rollins operation in N.J. fined $1.95 million in waste case

12/14/1988
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Rollins urged to ready lawyer in case Byrd conflict found

12/13/1988
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Pickets stage protest as Rollins applies for permits

12/12/1988
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DEQ reviewing report on impromptu Rollins inspection

12/7/1988
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Complaint leads to weekend inspection of Rollins by DEQ

12/7/1988
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Hearing officer, lawyers tour. Rollins facility

11/30/1988
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Council will consider ban on burning, storing PCBs

5/3/1985
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Screen asks officials to oppose PCB burn

12/20/1984
News Story

DEQ says Rollins PCB burn off until review completed

12/13/1984