DES’ Slawomir Lomnicki and LSU Superfund Research Center receive more than $400K to study air pollution

April 25, 2024

BATON ROUGE - A grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, or NIEHS, has presented LSU researchers and their colleagues with an unusual opportunity – to monitor changes in air quality following operational changes at the site.

The NIEHS is giving $426,808 to researchers from the LSU Superfund Research Center, including Slawomir Lomnicki of the Department of Environmental Sciences, to monitor air pollution in the small town of Colfax, in Grant Parish, Louisiana.

The grant comes at a crucial time for the area. Colfax has been home to the nation’s only commercially-operating open burn/open detonation hazardous waste thermal treatment facility. It is now transitioning to treating the waste in an enclosed site, and the NIEHS grant will allow the researchers to work with the local community to track local air quality during the transition.

“Studies of impact of Superfund waste treatment technologies on the local population’s health and well-being are typically associated with large uncertainty due to the lack of a reference point, instead relying on statistical comparisons with similar populations,” said Lomnicki, a co-Principal Investigator on the project. “Here, we have an opportunity to directly observe how the regulations and technology changes can affect exposure to pollutants.”

The Colfax facility has treated contaminated soils from other areas, spent military munitions and other explosives, while the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality has asked the operator to construct a closed burn facility to continue operation.

“Colfax is at an inflection point in terms of how waste management proceeds there,” said Jennifer Richmond-Bryant, a professor at North Carolina State who works with the LSU Superfund Research Center. “Hopefully, documenting conditions at this time will help illustrate how operational changes can make a difference in air quality.”

Learn more about the work of the Superfund Research Center: