Image by ๐Ÿ‘€ Mabel Amber, who will one day from Pixabay

Red sky in morning, sailors take warning. Red sky at night, sailors delight. But what if the red sky is not red but made to look red?

Trina Reulet’s daughter told her to come look out the window Friday at the red sky, weird for early in the afternoon. Reulet, 47, looked and told her daughter they were looking at airborne red dust from the LAlumina LLC waste pile near their home in the River Ridge neighborhood, a familiar problem for their area. “It was almost like a sunset,” she said.

This is all coming from a shuttered plant.

River Ridge, Pelican Crossing and other suburban Ascension neighborhoods in the Burnside area south of Interstate 10 are close to a roughly 500-acre waste pile, or “red mud lakes,” for a shuttered processing plant along the nearby Mississippi River. For years LAlumina has generated complaints from residents and dings from state inspectors, including compliance orders, over dried dust from the red mud lakes north of La. 22. Contained with levees, the sometimes slushy red mud is the spent tailings from bauxite ore processing and is laced with trace amounts of heavy metals and radioactive particles. The dried red mud can rise into the air as dust when the wind is blowing โ€” and required suppression efforts are insufficient.

Which of course means the dust carries all the bad things.

On June 29, the state Department of Environmental Quality issued a new compliance order against LAlumina over prior red dust episodes in the spring as well as failures to use sprinklers, to make daily checks of the containment levees’ integrity and to take other steps to control the dust or make promised upgrades. The dust problems are also the subject of a federal class action lawsuit by nearby residents. Gabriel Henn, an LAlumina executive who met with DEQ officials in late June, didn’t respond to an email for comment Friday. A listed number for him didn’t work. The number of a local company manager didn’t work either.

This does not stop the state from trying.

Greg Langley, DEQ spokesman, said the agency received one complaint about the red dust on Friday and inspectors would be sent out, but probably not for a day or two. He said rain headed to that area would likely knock the dust down. Reulet said the rain did end up doing to the red dust cloud later on Friday afternoon. Langley said DEQ is trying to work with the company to install more sprinklers and take other steps to control the dust but no timetable is available. “They’re working on it,” Langley said. He said the company has run into supply chain issues and, according to DEQ records, has had problems accessing its funds due to ongoing lawsuits.

ny says their accounts are frozen but by whom?

A DEQ report from late March said a company official informed a state inspector that the company’s funds had been frozen due to a lawsuit. it’s not clear which one. “Without access to funds, both short- and long-term compliance plans are unclear,” the DEQ report says. In addition to the federal class action suit, LAlumina has also been sued in state court over unpaid materials and services, court papers say. Among the largest claims was brought by chemical company Olin Corporation for $1.27 million plus other fees and costs. It’s not clear how many people are working at the plant and waste pond since the company shut down operations in August 2020 and laid off 300 workers. The job losses occurred after LAlumina had been awarded $7.2 million through the federal Paycheck Protection Program to support payroll expenses. At the time, the company had cited a slump in market conditions worsened by the pandemic.

Red bauxite is used in making aluminum.

Red bauxite ore is used to make alumina, a material that can be converted through later processing into aluminum. The red mud is left over as a waste product. The pile in Burnside is the remains of decades of production starting in the late 1950s by Ormet and later owners Almatis and LAlumina. The Advocate was notified about the dust cloud on Friday by readers after more chronic dust problems in the spring, including several instances that affected Sorrento Primary School on La. 22. In one of those instances, in early April, dust from the pile was so oppressive for children at the prekindergarten to fifth grade school that students outside at physical education class had to be rushed inside as a reddish, yellowish haze moved in, according to a complaint to DEQ. “As it approached closer (to) the school, the dust became so thick that we couldn’t even see the trees in the open field behind us. Students were complaining of their eyes burning and coughing,” the complaint alleges. “We rushed the children inside.” Reulet, who was contacted by The Advocate, said she didn’t make the complaint to DEQ on Friday.

There is a number of companies who have owned the plant at different times.

LAlumina is affiliated with Arthur Metals, an independent startup co-founded by alumina traders Matt Lucke and Zach Mayer. They are from the former British multinational mineral trading business Glencore. Arthur Metals acquired the Burnside Alumina site for an undisclosed price in July 2019 from Almatis.

If they had not contacted the Advocate would we even know about this air pollution that the state keeps saying come and pollute our state.

Why is the sky red? Pollution!
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