Metro Council passes ordinance in hopes of addressing odors from industrial, wastewater plants.

Metro Council passes ordinance in hopes of addressing odors from industrial, wastewater plants.

Stenches produced by businesses, chemical plants and East Baton Rouge Parish’s two sewage plants will now be regulated by the city-parish. 

Metro Council on Wednesday unanimously approved an ordinance by Councilman Darryl Hurst that allows for thousands of dollars in fines to be levied against business owners, operators or supervisors of any property in the parish emitting a stench past their boundary lines. 

The ordinance empowers the Baton Rouge Constable’s Office or city-parish staff to respond to complaints of foul smells with a device that measures odors, known as an olfactometer. If the device measures enough of the odor beyond property boundaries, the city-parish will begin proceedings against the entity. 

No business or city-parish facility within the parish will be exempt from the ordinance, Hurst said. 

“It’s a little different because we’ll be fining ourselves. But we have contractors that are doing the wastewater treatment plant, we have contractors for the landfill,” Hurst said. 

Entities will be given a warning for a first offense, although they will be required to submit an odor abatement plan that explains the source of the stench and describes how it will be prevented from emanating beyond the property in the future. 

The penalty for a second offense is $1,000, increasing in thousand dollar increments up to the fourth offense. If five offenses happen in a 12-month period, entities will be fined $500 for every day the odor is measurable outside the property. 

Fines will be sent to the general fund to fund the enforcement of the ordinance. 

The ordinance proposal was deferred in June in order over concerns from council members that it would require the city-parish to fine itself for the stench of human waste that nearby residents say frequently emanates from the government’s two sewage plants. The previous version of the ordinance also did not include a warning for a first offense or the odor abatement plan. 

The state Department of Environmental Quality is the permitting agency for the refinery, chemical businesses and the sewage plants. While complaints can be filed with LDEQ, oftentimes agents with the department are unable to respond until after the odor has dissipated, Hurst said. The city-parish ordinance allows the constable’s office to quickly respond to complaints and ticket offending businesses, Hurst said.

State Sen. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, spoke in support of the measure. She said that during a recent meeting with constituents, odors in Baton Rouge were brought up as a significant problem. 

“It was reemphasized to me about this being a nuisance in the community, that causes people to be sick,” Barrow said. 

The ordinance was supported unanimously, but Councilwoman Chauna Banks said she thought it is unlikely to make an impact. There are multiple chemical plants in north Baton Rouge, including ExxonMobil and the North Wastewater Treatment Plant.

“I supported it because I think it’s a feel-good motion, but I don’t think it has much teeth,” Banks said. “This is not anything new, and I don’t think this ordinance is going to make a big difference.”


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