St. Gabriel City Council denies Adsorbent Solutions rezoning, variance request

Andrew Green agreen@postsouth.com
Residents and Adsorbent Solutions (ADSO) employees addressed the St. Gabriel City Council before they voted on whether or not to permit a rezoning and variance for ADSO.

St. Gabriel City Council members unanimously voted against the request of rezoning and variance from local chemical company Adsorbent Solutions (ADSO) on Thursday.

Before members voted, a public hearing was held brimming with requests from some St. Gabriel residents to deny the ADSO request.  ADSO officials, including company President Stewart Fulton, several employees and their lawyers were also in attendance at the April 20 council meeting and addressed the council.

Adsorbent Solutions, a carbon reactivation plant located at 7100 St. Gabriel Ave., was seeking rezoning of its property from a business corridor to light industrial.  The approvals from the City Council were needed in order to execute a planned expansion for the facility.

The expansion included adding a kiln, thermal oxidizer, scrubber system, screen dust collector, steam boiler, diesel powered vacuum and natural gas emergency generator, according to the LDEQ.

It has been an arduous battle for ADSO and the St. Gabriel residents, a process that stretches back to September 2016.

The city’s Planning and Zoning Committee unanimously rejected the ADSO request in September.  The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) then held a public hearing on March 7 to allow residents to voice their concerns against the expansion, a step that must be taken before approving or denying an air permit for ADSO.

According to the DEQ, the expansion would show an increase in the emissions of sulfur dioxide and a reduction in volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides released from ADSO.  Company President Stewart Fulton claims the expansion would also allow them to improve the safety of the St. Gabriel community with installation of state of the art equipment.

More than 70 residents attended the March 7 hearing and voiced their opinion against the expansion, claiming ADSO was the main source of foul odors in the area and released chemicals into the environment.

“I’ve seen my great nephews and nieces stand on the side of the street with tears in their eyes, can’t breathe, and crying,” said resident William Smith at the March 7 DEQ public hearing.  “Stop polluting our air.”

“Their chemicals have constantly bombarded our community,” another resident claimed.

ADSO legal representative George Grace addressed the council Thursday night before they cast their vote and claimed even if they get denied their request, the company will continue with their daily operations.

“A vote of ‘no’ won’t allow the necessary upgrades that will be best for the plant and also the community,” Grace said.  “The vote tonight is for … a more productive facility.  Adsorbent Solutions is not going anywhere.”

The DEQ approved ADSO’s air permit request, however, Wednesday night before the council meeting.  The decision was made over a month later from the initial March 7 hearing.

“They didn’t just rubber stamp a new air permit,” Grace said.  “They did their due diligence.”

Environmental lawyer Thomas Gildersleeve, ADSO representative, also addressed the council before the vote.  He explained that ADSO is in the midst of a legal settlement over past compliance issues the company has had, but the company is in full compliance now and ready to move forward with the proposed expansion.

Gildersleeve also stated that the company has decided to accept a penalty of $30,000 from DEQ for past transgressions.  “We will pay that penalty,” Gildersleeve said.  “We have no intentions of backing away from that penalty.”  He then explained that the decision is not final, but the company plans to accept.  

In the past, the DEQ claimed ADSO had improperly disposed of solid waste and/or reactivated carbon at its facility into the St. Gabriel community, but the proper steps were taken to bring ADSO back into compliance, said Gildersleeve.

After the hearing, City Council members voted “no” across the board (Councilwoman Alexander was absent) for both the rezoning and variance requests with little discussion.  The vote was met with applause from the St. Gabriel residents when the month-long ordeal came to an end.