“We have never had coal runoff get in the river from a hurricane. We have had a little get off their facilities, but not into the river, and they have always cleaned it up well" --Billy Nungesser
United Bulk hasn't needed a hurricane to pollute our river.
Each time we pass the United Bulk Facility, we find more and more coal in the air and water surrounding the facility. During and immediately after Isaac, the black waters spread miles over the starving cattle, who drank from contaminated water. A few days later, acres of pasture around the facility turned red with residue.
Of course we haven't been able to go onto the batture on United Bulk property, but 0.5 miles downriver, on public batture, coal scum and debris wash up. This is the contamination you can't see from aerial photography.
The coal and refinery wastes spill constantly from an uncovered conveyor, but the waste continues to pollute the batture and submerged sandbar.
Aug 25th, 2012, photo GRN and Southwings
Is this blackened batture, these blackened sediments what DNR would allow at the mouth of the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion? Is this the sediment we should build wetlands with?
A glistening black nugget 0.5 miles away from the United Bulk conveyor.
Fresh animal tracks cover the most recent layer of coal and petroleum coke to wash up from the Mississippi River, downriver from United Bulk.
A scoop sample reveals coal on the water bottom, 0.5 miles downriver from United Bulk.
In June, the higher river floods the ongoing pile made from unpermittted discharges of coal and petroleum coke into the Mississippi River. This is the pile that has grown from the spillage we saw in Spring 2013. (photo: June 15th, Southwings.org and GRN)
In this example from the facility itself, coal and petroleum coke are lost to ground where the conveyor is uncovered. A simliar process happens in the river batture and the river. Picture taken from road, Gulf Restoration Network.
A wider shot of the orange cover for the conveyor. The conveyor is covered across the road, but not in the river.
Scott Eustis, M.S., is the Coastal Wetland Specialist for Gulf Restoration Network