Gov. Edwards wants EPA to help clean up Capitol Lakes

Gov. John Bel Edwards today sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency as the final step required to classify the heavily contaminated Capitol Lakes as a Superfund site to make them eligible for federal cleanup, oversight and funding.

Contamination from polychlorobiphenyls, chemicals formerly used in industrial products, has been an issue in the lakes on the north side of the Capitol Complex since 1983 when the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality investigated a report of PCB-laden oil entering the lakes, according to an announcement from Edwards’ office. Since then, signs posted around the lakes by LDEQ, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and Louisiana Department of Health have warned against any consumption of fish from the lakes or any contact with the waters or sediments.

LDEQ scientists were hoping that natural attenuation would isolate the contaminates from the wildlife food chain. However, in 2017, fish tissue sampling conducted by LDEQ at the site showed the contamination was still present in the water column.

Chuck Carr, LDEQ secretary, says the state hasn’t had the resources to decontaminate the lakes before now.

The EPA conducted its own assessment of the site and, in August 2022, notified LDEQ that the preliminary Hazard Ranking System Score for the Capitol Lakes site was enough to qualify it for inclusion on the National Priorities List. The state’s letter of concurrence, signed by Gov. Edwards, will allow the proposed listing to be published in the Federal Register in the spring and a comment period will commence with that publication.

Once the comment period closes and all comments are addressed, sometime in 2023, the process can move forward to determine a cleanup remedy and acquire funding for that work. See Edwards’ announcement.