Elements out of their element

Over the years, Rocker has learned that a letter from any government agency isn’t always cause for celebration. Some even fall into the category of “wish this one had remained unopened.” That could be the case of letters to Minden addresses from the state Department of Environmental Quality.

We recently read a piece about DEQ findings of contaminants in the soil around an area from Pennsylvania Avenue to Gleason Street which apparently originated from chemicals used at the now closed Imperial Cleaners. Allegedly, some of the chemicals were dumped into the sewer system while others may have leaked from underground tanks that have since been removed.

We understand soil samples taken from the area showed high levels of things a non-chemist like us can’t quite understand, like whattheheckdoesthismene and cantpronouncethisatol. We also learned that some who work in the area of concern have reported an unusual odor in their buildings. Wonder if DEQ considers that a clue also.

To get a better understanding, we contacted a scientist buddy and asked if he might verify what was mentioned in the story we read. In walking encyclopedic terms which he later condensed to third-grade language we could understand, our expert advisor said the compounds are “some scary stuff.”

A little more checking around revealed bothersome information. Seems none in city or parish government knew about, or would admit to knowing about, contents of the DEQ letter despite mention of same in a news story published months ago. Maybe that’s changed after the release of the most recent article.

Chemicals listed in a recent DEQ report (which apparently has also gone unread/unmentioned by local officials) reportedly have contaminated their way toward Head Start offices and the Webster Parish Community Services building on Gleason Street. Large concentrations were noted in the report. 

We heard from one former city official this is nothing of which we should be concerned. That would be comforting if this person has seen verifiable findings that verify this apparent lack of concern. Uninformed assurances aren’t worth a brass farthing. To date, however, no one in government at any level has publicly addressed the situation. 

We aren’t suggesting there should be a full-fledged evacuation of the area which, incidentally, is very close to facilities that house children. All we’re asking is that someone take the findings seriously enough to make a statement. And while they’re at it, maybe someone might look into reports of several individuals who worked in the area and suffered serious health conditions. 

We read twice the portion of the article that mentioned the potential for aquifer contamination. Wouldn’t that be quite the reward for misunderestimating the problem? If past experiences are a measure, if DEQ is involved and public concern increases, the EPA won’t be far behind. Those are acronyms we’d much rather see from a distance. 

We don’t want to be labeled an alarmist, but we do remember something ol’ grandpappy used to say. “If you bury your head in the sand long enough, the rest of your body soon joins it.”