By Paige Nash
It seems that no governing officials knew about the extent of the contamination left behind by Imperial Cleaners, including the Webster Parish Police Jury, which owns three lots in the vicinity of the historic dry-cleaning facility.
One of these buildings houses the Webster Parish Office of Community Services, which facilitates numerous programs and services, including Section 8 Housing, Head Start, Low Income Home Energy Assistance, Family Day Care USDA, Head Start Food Service USDA, Rural and Small Transit Transportation, and Medicaid Transportation and Emergency Rental Assistance.
There have been a few reports of employees of Community Services experiencing side effects that could possibly be caused by exposure to the chemicals that have been found in the soil and groundwater in the area. Their symptoms include gastrointestinal issues, headaches and dizziness. However, the police jury has not received any complaints at this time.
They have had a few citizens voice concerns since the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality sent letters to notify nearby business owners and residents in the area on April 22. After receiving notice, WPPJ began contacting outside agencies to come in and complete air quality testing within their property.
“We did try to hire our own company, but they were so busy, it was going to be a while before they could get the testing done,” said Nick Cox, Webster Parish Police Juror. Since they could not find an available company to perform the testing before LDEQ, that plan fell through.
According to Celeste Bonnecaze, member of the Remediation Division with LDEQ, they began reaching out to the possibly affected businesses this week to begin scheduling air quality sampling. When those results come back, they will be able to form a more direct plan of action on cleanup of the site.