NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Some businesses along the New Orleans riverfront are complaining about a white powdery substance that blew into their establishments, covering everything in its path.
However, on Monday (Feb. 18), the Port of New Orleans said it was a common, odorless substance. But for residents and business owners like William Schoen, the dust was alarming.
"With the high winds and the volume of the material, it’s covered every vehicle, all of my parts, tools, fixtures and it continues to fall out because it’s all airborne inside the building itself,” Schoen said. owner of Uptown Imports Inc., located in the 2900 block of Tchoupitoulas Street.
He said the dust-like substance covered the inside of his business in the 2900 block of Tchoupitoulas Street, Uptown Imports Inc., and vehicles parked outside.
"My car lot outside, all the used cars covered in it,” Schoen said.
Schoen said the problem began the latter part of last week.
"Starting Thursday morning a ship started off-loading bulk material. Some type of white granular substance and they were doing so in high winds,” Schoen said.
Just down the block at Disco Furniture Warehouse, there were similar complaints. Timothy Chappetta, Jr., the company’s CEO said they were also concerned about the mysterious substance.
"That’s the buildup of white powder, dust, we’re not sure what it is. We’re just worried that it’s chemicals,” Chappetta said.
Chappetta showed off samples of the dust he collected in a plastic bag.
And like Schoen, Chappetta worried that the white stuff could be harmful.
"Customers breathing it in, damaging furniture. We now have horticulture in here. We don’t want it damaged, you know, and we’re worried about our health, customers’ health and our employees’ health,” Chappetta said.
"Health-wise, everybody was [concerned], we had to close the door here, it got so bad with the eye irritation, with the stuff being airborne. I don’t know what the material is,” Schoen said.
The Port of New Orleans issued the following statement:
“According to tenant’s records, the cargo was aluminum oxide sourced from Jamaica, which is a common odorless material used for a variety of manufacturing purposes and in household and personal care products. During cargo transfer, unexpected winds occurred, and operations ceased shortly afterward. The terminal operator adheres to best practices in place with regards to operations during windy conditions and adjusts operations when conditions merit.”
The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality said it will test the substance, but a spokesman for the agency said Monday’s rain hampered efforts to collect an independent sample.
"That’s all we want to know is, what it is? What it is? Because it’s costing us so much time to clean,” Chappetta said.
The port added that dust control measures are regulated by DEQ. The hotline number is: (225) 219-3640.