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Noranda public concerns meeting set

LUTCHER — In response to the air quality concerns on the minds of many River Region residents, a public meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday at Lutcher High School Auditorium, located at 1910 W. Main St. in Lutcher.

The meeting will focus discussions on Gramercy’s Noranda Alumina refinery, which could be facing a state fine as the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality nears an enforcement decision after mercury emissions the company was not permitted for were reported.

The refinery, located between Airline Highway and River Road near the West Bank bound approach to the Veterans Memorial Bridge, self-reported the emissions in 2014 and has been working with the state to model what is being discharged, company and state officials said.

DEQ Press Secretary Greg Langley said DEQ executive staff would be present at this week’s meeting.

“The purpose of this meeting is to provide information to residents about air quality as it relates to the Noranda Alumina plant,” Langley said. “DEQ will provide background information about the facility and discuss ongoing air and water monitoring, as well as recent results.”

St. John the Baptist Parish President Natalie Robottom said residents are encouraged to visit the DEQ’s website at deq.louisiana.gov and click on the “mercury” tab for additional information.

“The public meeting was scheduled in partnership with St. James Parish and the Department of Environmental Quality to address concerns for our residents and to obtain information about mercury,” she said.

St. John Parish Public Information Officer Baileigh Rebowe Helm said Noranda officials are expected to attend.

Noranda is a multi-national company that gathers bauxite, which is red dirt, from its mining operation in Jamaica.

The bauxite is loaded onto ocean-going vessels and transported to the Gramercy refinery, where it is blasted with energy and caustic to covert it into a white sandy powder, Langley said, creating alumina.

Alumina is the key feedstock in the creation of aluminum. The alumina created in Gramercy is transported by barge to Noranda’s facility in New Madrid, Mo., where primary aluminum is produced.