Alsen / St Irma Lee

Parish: East Baton Rouge Parish

A small rural community where some residents still have horses has become the neighbor to over a dozen industrial facilities including the infamous hazardous waste facility formerly owned by Rollins. This site is now one of three Super Fund sites in Alsen along with many other facilities that handle hazardous material near this residential community. Separated from Alsen by the Ronaldson Field Landfill, St. Irma Lee is a very small community surrounded by industrial facilities. Some residences are within approximately 300 feet of the large waste pile of Ronaldson Field. Significant local opposition was voiced during the original siting of this landfill in 1996 and there has been a documented history of complaints for the following two decades. Impacts to the community increased significantly as a result of the debris received by the Ronaldson Field landfill following the historic flooding of 2016. Residents once again expressed opposition to the operation of this facility within their community at the most recent permit renewal hearing for Ronaldson Field, still pending. Some residents in both Alsen and St. Irma Lee have expressed interest in being relocated.

Alsen's long environmental justice history has been championed by powerful female leadership beginning with Mary McCastle and Florence Robinson, both included in the book: Women Pioneers of Louisiana's Environmental Movement by Peggy Frankland.

  • Mary McCastle Interview

    Mary McCastle began her involvement with the environmental movement in 1980 when she organized and started the environmental group Coalition for Community Activism (CCA). She became an environmental advocate because she and many other members of her rural African American community suffered from a variety of health problems, problems that they attributed to the Rollins Environmental Services, Inc. hazardous waste facility. Mary spent many hours in Baton Rouge on behalf of her community, lobbying to close Rollins. She was one of the first African American women in Louisiana to challenge industry and demand change. In the 1980s, because of her activism, she was invited to speak at Citizen’s Clearinghouse for Hazardous Wastes (CCHW) national environmental conference. Audio interview with Mary McCastle for Women Pioneers of the Louisiana Environmental Movement by Peggy Frankland, conducted by Jennifer A. Cramer, Director of the T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History. Copyright: Louisiana State University Special Collections.
  • Mary McCastle Interview, part 2

    Part 2 of interview with Mary McCastle for Women Pioneers of the Louisiana Environmental Movement by Peggy Frankland, conducted by Jennifer A. Cramer, Director of the T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History. Copyright: Louisiana State University Special Collections.
Florence Robinson copyright Peggy Frankland, Women Pioneers of the Louisiana Environmental Movement
Florence Robinson, a retired biology professor, worked tirelessly to reduce pollution in her community of Alsen, a rural, African American settlement north of Baton Rouge. She served on numerous state and national environmental committees, including the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN) board of directors. In the early 1990s, she was awarded the Heinz Foundation Award for her environmental activism. Florence was a pioneering female voice applying her scientific background to environmental issues facing her own community.
This atlas is a working document developed by community members in partnership with LEAN as they work toward resolving the challenges they face. This content is under construction and continues to be refined as new data is compiled and community situations evolve. Please excuse any errors or omissions. It is our hope that documentation of these struggles allows a greater opportunity to learn from them and, ultimately, to improve the lives of residents across Louisiana who face these significant challenges.