OHSA: No problems at complex site

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 29, 2001

FERRIDAY, La. – As long as a firm that is constructing an apartment complex on Third Street takes enough precautions to protect workers, said U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration officials, the agency has no problem with the project.

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.

&uot;Basically, what we said to the contractors was to dig up five to seven inches of soil from the site and wet the soil prior to transporting it to a disposal site,&uot; said Diana Peterson, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Labor in Dallas.

Officials of the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality have consulted with OSHA representatives and State Epidemiologist Dr. Raoult Ratard about the project, said DEQ official Larry Baldwin.

&uot;We agreed that as long as the soil is in a wet state, it can be transported. They have two truckloads of material left to remove from the site,&uot; Baldwin said.

Jeffery Ables, who lives on Kentucky Avenue adjacent to the construction site, said she talked with Baldwin when he and other DEQ officials visited the site early Wednesday.

&uot;(Baldwin) told me they had not been given the go-ahead, … that they were still looking into it,&uot;&160;Ables said. &uot;He said they were looking at testing the soil. It’s not over.&uot;

But Baldwin said Wednesday afternoon that &uot;they have been given the go-ahead&uot; for construction.