Toxic Air at Schools?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009 - 6:43pm

Is toxic air from local refineries still a problem for Baton Rouge schools? Not at all according to the Department of Environmental Quality. Our Kianga Kelley has been tracking this story.

Baton Rouge is one of the most industrialized areas in the state. So, it’s no wonder it became the target of USA Today’s research on toxic schools. In the December report, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency claimed it found hazardous chemicals like sulfuric acid and chlorine released from refineries around 13 Baton Rouge schools, turning the school environment into a danger zone.

Rodney Mallet, a spokesman for the Department of Environmental Quality believes the report was misleading and wanted to set the record straight. He says the so called research was really based off a screening tool designed to show where a problem could possibly exist.

In reality, DEQ found that the air quality actually meets all state and federal standards. “We have a network of 21 toxic air monitors throughout the state, we have 11 right here in the capital region.”

DEQ also uses a mobile air monitoring laboratory to make sure no air goes untested; it’s the only one found in the state and one of a handful found across the country. “Our air quality has gotten so much better in Louisiana and a lot of it is through the permitting arm, the air monitoring network that we have, and the work through the facilities. They don’t want to be fined by DEQ and also most of them want to be good neighbors.” Neighbors, the DEQ says, are friends and not foes.

Chris Trahan with the East Baton Rouge School System also responded to the article saying quote “We haven’t noticed any outbreaks.”

Click here for more information on DEQ's findings.