In A Flash

Feds add toxic Capitol Lakes cleanup to priority list

By: - March 31, 2023 6:00 am
Capitol Lakes near the Louisiana State Capitol and Governor's Mansion

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has placed Capitol Lakes on its National Priority List for Superfund sites. The designation moves the remediation of its polluted waters to the front of the line for federal funding. (Piper Hutchinson/Louisiana Illuminator)

The long-contaminated Capitol Lakes area in Baton Rouge is being moved to the front of the line for remediation money, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Wednesday. 

The 60-acre site near the Louisiana Capitol and Governor’s Mansion has been placed on the EPA’s National Priorities List, which means the remediation project is poised to receive federal funds before other Superfund sites.

Gov. John Bel Edwards asked the agency in December to move the project to the top of its Superfund site list after the EPA notified him in August it was eligible. The Superfund designation is given to locations that pose the most severe health and environmental risks.     

“An investment of this magnitude means a cleaner, more pristine and healthier environment for wildlife and for those who enjoy visiting the lakes,” Edwards said in a statement. “We’ve known for a very long time about the contamination problem, and while many people have been advocating for something to be done, it was never made a priority.”

According to the EPA, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were detected in sediment near the lakes in 1972. PCBs are compounds that can cause liver damage if consumed and skin irritation with contact. The federal government made them illegal to produce in 1979.

In 1983, the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality investigated reports of oil containing PCBs in the lakes. State officials have long warned against eating any fish caught in the lakes or having contact with its waters or sediment.

Officials used silt in an attempt to trap the PCBs in the lake, but a 2017 sampling of fish tissue showed they were still contaminated.

The governor’s office has said it could take three to five years for remediation work to begin once Capitol Lakes is placed on the Superfund priority list.

Other sites added to the EPA’s National Priorities List are:

  • Federated Metals Corp. Whiting in Hammond, Indiana
  • Fansteel Metals/FMRI in Muskogee, Oklahoma
  • The Lukachukai Mountains Mining District in Cove, Navajo Nation, Arizona


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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.