COLFAX, La. — The retention pond at Clean Harbors Colfax in Grant Parish will be closed following tests that show it had levels of toxins that exceeded standards.

Water from the contaminated pond is released into tributaries that ultimately carry it to the Red River.

State Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Chuck Carr Brown tells The Town Talk ( Clean Harbors Colfax has been directed to get rid of the pond and replace it with a system “that will provide greater protections to human health and the environment.”

The pond, which holds rainwater with residue from chemicals on the facility’s burn pads, will be replaced by a storage tank/treatment system.

“We’re talking about a maximum of six to nine months” to replace the pond, said Phillip Retallick, senior vice president of Clean Harbors, the parent company of the Colfax-area facility.

“We’re still designing the replacement system. It is going to have a containment system. It’s just deciding what type of containment system to use,” he said

Brenda Vallee, one of the leaders of the Central Louisiana Coalition for A Safe and Healthy Environment, said the contaminated pond should be shut down quickly.

“We want it, like, yesterday,” Vallee said of closing the pond. “We don’t want to drag it out. We want it closed now.”

Vallee lives about 2 miles from the facility, which conducts open burning of more than 500,000 pounds of munitions, explosives and other waste annually.

Central Louisiana Coalition for A Safe and Healthy Environment, a citizens group, was formed to oppose open burning at Clean Harbors Colfax. Vallee and other members of the group have said they are not looking to close the facility down, but they would like to see a closed-container system used instead of open burning.

The company says the open burning is not a threat to public health, but it is researching alternative methods of disposal.

Wilma Subra, a New Iberia chemist who provides technical assistance to Louisiana Environmental Action Network, said closed-container burning could be used for most of the waste stream at Clean Harbors Colfax.

But some of the materials there should be disposed of through methods other than open burning or closed- container burning, she said.

“Not all of the material that they are able to accept would be appropriate for the contained-burn category .,” Subra said. “But there are other methods of dealing with the other components that you could not do in some type of contained burn.”

When the facility replaces the pond with a storage tank, Subra hopes that water, even if treated, won’t be released into streams. She would like to see Clean Harbors “haul it off to some other location.”

However, Retallick said the replacement system is expected to be a “combination of the containment system and a treatment system, which would have a discharge.”

The company will meet all criteria set by DEQ, Retallick said, adding, “We’re committed to making the change.”

Information from: Alexandria Daily Town Talk,