DEQ gives green light to apartment complex

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 28, 2001

FERRIDAY, La. – The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality has given the Macon Ridge Community Development Corp. the go-ahead to build an apartment complex at Ohio Avenue and Third Street.

Larry Baldwin of the DEQ’s Monroe regional office said the decision was made after DEQ officials consulted with State Epidemiologist Dr. Raoult Ratard.

&uot;Histoplasma is present in all poultry farms, and people are commonly exposed to it throughout the central U.S.,&uot; Ratard said. &uot;Fifty percent of people in this state have been exposed to it, but of those people, very few develop histoplasmosis. We only have five to 10 cases reported in Louisiana each year.

&uot;They need to wet the dirt so they don’t create any dust when moving it. If they do that, we don’t see any problem (with the development),&uot; he said.

Residents living near the site have expressed concerns that since the former owner of the property raised chickens on the site, and since blackbirds have roosted there for years, the fungus histoplasma could be present in the soil.

That fungus can cause histoplasmosis, a condition that can lead to lung disorders and blindness. Stirring up dust at the site, they said, might stir up the fungus, which could then be breathed in by nearby residents. B.A.S. Construction of Rayville cleared the site March 19 and 20.

But work has stopped since then because the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration ordered that the site be inspected to make sure that workers were protected from possible exposure to histoplasma.

B.A.S. Construction must submit a report to OSHA &uot;in the next couple of days&uot; detailing how workers will be protected, said Macon Ridge President Buddy Spillers. &uot;The only thing that’s holding us up now is that we’re trying to negotiate with the (Tensas Parish) site where we’re dumping the dirt for a better price,&uot; Spillers said. &uot;We should be ready to resume work at the site next week.&uot; OSHA officials Jeffrey Ables of Baton Rouge and Elizabeth Todd of Dallas could not be reached for comment Tuesday.