Gov. Edwards wants Capitol Lakes declared EPA Superfund site

By: - December 19, 2022 5:06 pm
Capitol Lakes near the Louisiana State Capitol and Governor's Mansion

Gov. John Bel Edwards wants the federal government to place Capitol Lakes on a priority list for environmental remediation for its polluted water waters. (Piper Hutchinson/Louisiana Illuminator)

The lakes around the State Capitol and Governor’s Mansion are among the most picturesque in Baton Rouge – and among the most polluted bodies of water in the state.

To remedy the long-standing problems, Gov. John Bel Edwards has asked the federal government to put the Capitol Lakes on a priority list for environmental remediation and the money to do the needed work.

Edwards sent a letter Monday to the acting director of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund division. The governor’s letter is in response to a request for concurrence from Louisiana before the Capitol Lakes can be placed on an EPA’s National Priorities List.

The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality has confirmed the presence of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contamination in the lakes, according to the letter. PCBs are compounds known to have a high risk of causing cancer. The U.S. made their production illegal in 1979. 

An EPA-backed cleanup of the lakes “is needed in order to eliminate the potential threat this contamination could cause to the public, as well as the surface water pathway and wetland areas that are adjacent to the site.”

In 1983, the DEQ investigated reports of oil containing PCBs entering the lakes. State officials have warned against eating any fish caught in the lakes or having contact with its waters or sediments. 

Silt was used to encapsulate the PCBs, and DEQ scientists thought it would keep the harmful compounds from being ingested. But in 2017, a sampling of fish tissue from the lakes showed they were still contaminated.

The DEQ has studied ways to fix the polluted lakes, but Edwards said the state has not had enough money for a full restoration.

The EPA notified Louisiana this past August that the Capitol Lakes site had qualified for inclusion on the National Priorities List. The governor’s letter of concurrence will allow the proposed listing to be published in the Federal Register in the spring, and that will start a public comment period. 

The end of the comment period is anticipated sometime in 2023, according to the governor. Then the process starts to select a cleanup method and acquire money for the work. It could take from three to five years before the actual remediation work begins, the governor’s office said.


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Greg LaRose
Greg LaRose

Greg LaRose has covered news for more than 30 years in Louisiana. Before coming to the Louisiana Illuminator, he was the chief investigative reporter for WDSU-TV in New Orleans. He previously led the government and politics team for The Times-Picayune |, and was editor in chief at New Orleans CityBusiness. Greg's other career stops include Tiger Rag, South Baton Rouge Journal, the Covington News Banner, Louisiana Radio Network and multiple radio stations.