Turn Services awaiting a spot to monitor ship traffic in river

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 10, 2001

Daniel Tyler Gooden

LUTCHER – On Feb. 4 the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality will be open to public comment on another company looking to work in the Mississippi River. Letters to the DEQ may display a more positive nature toward Turn Services, which works the Grandview anchorage in Lutcher and Gramercy and is looking to expand.

Turn Services is a welcome watchdog to those who are worried about what may be polluting the Mississippi through ship and barge cleaning. The company monitors ships at anchor, taking samples of their cargo holds and ensuring that the water dumped into the river after cleaning is legal according to DEQ regulations.

The permit application is an extension of the one already received by Turn Services, which is currently allowed to test ships at both the Grandview and Burnside anchorages. The new permit would allow them to test for pollution at 10 more anchorages from Baton Rouge to the mouth of the Mississippi.

All dry bulk vessels are supposed to test their holds before the clean, said Frank Morton, president of Turn Services. Some companies do; others don’t take the time or just don’t care. Since Turn Services is only allowed to test at Grandview anchorage, vessels are docking elsewhere to avoid testing, said Morton.

The testing done by Morton is charged to the shipping companies, who are legally responsible for keeping pollution out of the river.

“We go through the authorized ship agents to do the testing,” said Morton. The agents comply, knowing the rules set by the DEQ require careful monitoring of ship cleaning.

The Turn Services crews sometimes board the ships and sample the wash water from the dry hoppers before it mingles with the river water. Sometimes the ship crews to the testing themselves and hand the results over to the company. Part of the tests are done on site, others are sent to a lab in New Orleans for further testing. The lab issues it’s results to DEQ and other agencies along with sending a copy back to Morton for the company records.

Some of the ships clean their holds by shoveling and sweeping, avoiding the hassle of water cleaning. They pay disposal companies to take their waste, instead of dumping it in the river.

Morton has been waiting some time for the permits to be granted. His first two permits took two years to process, he said. The application to expand to other anchorages was filed in November 1999, and Morton expects to received the permits late this year.

“Ships are being cleaned every day whether they’re tested or not,” said Morton. If companies like Belmont Fleeting and other controversial cleaning companies “have not applied for this kind of permit, they will be required to use my services,” said Morton.

After the display of dislike toward companies that may be polluting the river at the last DEQ public hearing in Convent, St. James Parish citizens may be happy to see that there is a company that helping to ensure the well being of their river and water supply.