Ironton residents upset over plans for coal handling facility

Plaquemines Parish, La. -- Residents of the Ironton community are banding together to fight plans for a coal handling and transfer terminal near their neighborhood.

"A lot of the things that's being done is being done secretly," said Wilkie DeClouet, a resident of Ironton which has been home to generations of African-Americans in Plaquemines.

DeClouet and others are upset over the planned construction of a bulk coal handling and storage terminal close to their neighborhood.

According to the State Department of Environmental Quality, Ram Terminals, LLC, plans to build a terminal where coal will come in by barge, be stored on site and then be shipped back out. But Ironton residents said having the facility so close to home worries them.

"We have a lot of people around here that over the years have passed away.  You know, lung cancer, different kinds of cancer in this area right here.  So we don't need another entity to come in to contribute to this problem," DeClouet continued.

In July, DEQ gave final approval to an air permit for the particulate emissions which may result from the handling of the coal at the transfer site.  But DEQ said the permit does not allow for any combustion of coal.

Still, people in Ironton have mounting concerns, including speculation that they will eventually be forced to move.

"We're not going anywhere, you know, we're going to fight this thing to the end," said DeClouet.

''Instead of relocating the coal terminal somewhere else... now you're just going to displace the people?" said Burghart Turner, District 6 councilman for Plaquemines Parish.

A spokesman for Ram Terminals said late Tuesday that is not the case.  Charles Wesley said there are no plans to ask residents to move.  He added that there will be a vegetation buffer of approximately one mile between the facility and the community of Ironton.

"If you have a coal facility right outside your door which is what we're talking [about,] I don't see how we cannot be harmed, even if its psychological," Turner continued.

Ironton also has its own cemetery, and people in the community said that is another reason why they are so committed to the area.

"You've got a lot of elderly people that live in this community, a lot of people, our roots are buried in this community right here," DeClouet stated.

Parish President Billy Nungesser was not available for comment.