The capacity crowd which filled the Civic Center’s Mural Room Thursday night must now wait some 120 days to learn if their vehement opposition to a proposed commercial salt water disposal facility results in a denial of a permit by the environmental division of the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources.
A total of 34 people stepped up to a microphone to voice their often stringent opposition to three environmental impact specialists during the hearing which spanned two hours and 15 minutes.
Because of the large number of opponents who signed “speaker cards”, hearing officer John Adams limited speakers to four minutes each. In most cases, the speakers cited their objections in fewer minutes.
Joining Adams were Office of Conservation officials Stephen Hollier and Daryl Williams and a court reporter.
Mayor Jim Petitjean was the first to speak, as he hand-delivered the City Council’s resolution opposing the disposal well permit sought by La Tank of Lake Charles. He also submitted a letter from Sen. Jonathan Perry to DNR Secretary Scott Angelle, expressing his opposition.
School Board members Roland Boudreaux and Gene Daigle also presented a resolution of opposition adopted by the Acadia Parish School Board and added their own concerns.
Police Jurors David Savoy and Robert Guidry also mentioned their personal concerns as they submitted a resolution adopted by the Acadia Parish Police Jury.
Martin Guillory, president of the Mire-Branch Water District, which serves 2,500 households in the area of Branch and Mire Elementary Schools, told the DNR representatives the board would also file a resolution of opposition.
With few exceptions, opponent after opponent asked for a 120 day extension to allow more research and submission of comments.
At the conclusion of the hearing, the crowd was told by hearing officer Adams that he was forbidden by regulations to grant their request for a 120-day extension, but did agreed to add a second week, specifically until 4:30 p.m. on July 26, for submission of additional comments.
The majority of those who spoke in opposition were family members associated with the adjoining H&J Gossen Properties, LLC, other adjacent landowners or nearby homeowners.
Most cited the threat of salt water contaminating the Chicot Aquifer, impacting rice and crawfish production. One landowner, Donald Gossen raised the specter of a terrorist attack releasing damaging waste.
Barry Navarre, for instance, talked of the contamination threat to the Chicot Aquifer, the sole source of drinking and irrigation water for residents and agricultural use.
Others such as Gilbert Gossen, general manager of H&J Properties, was concerned about the ability of a firewall surrounding the temporary storage tanks to contain any leaks and inadequate monitoring.
According to the diagram of the proposed disposal well, arriving tanker trucks would drive up to an unloading slab and use a limestone turn-around to re-enter Hwy. 35. The waste fluids would be conveyed to the well by a four-inch injection line.
Many also cited the traffic danger and noise of 61 semi-trailer trucks arriving and departing seven days a week from the disposal site, declining property values and air quality.
Other speakers cited their concerns about the potential for increased traffic accidents, including the danger to children on school buses.
Florence Gossen, who with her husband, Hebert, live adjacent to the proposed well site, indicated the permit should be denied because La Tank filed to comply with documentation of proper ownership and there were alternatives, including “flowback treatments.” She also mentioned letters of opposition from Judd Gautreaux and Rep. Mickey Guillory.
Frank Heikamp and his wife, Bevely,talked about the 13 houses within a 1,000 feet of the well site and 100 homes within 1.6 miles, as well as the numerous water wells within a 1,000 feet of the well.
Marcus Bordelon may have best framed the audience’s worry about the disposal well, when he noted “the lack of confidence in the people who are overseeing this project,” including the company officials and DNR officials.
Dwayne Gossen said he had “a fear of an impending disaster” and asked “what if” La Tank bankrupts.
A petition containing 250 signatures opposed to the permit was also submitted by Diane Comeaux.
George Jordan, chief operating officer of LA Tank, acknowledge there was a “lot fear of the unknown.”
He also noted there are current 97 injection wells in the parish and that the three commercial wells “are nearing capacity.”
Jordan also said the Gossen family has signed an oil and gas lease on their property.
He commended the audience for expressing their concerns.
Another LA tank representative Marjorie McKeithen told the audience the firm would not be withdrawing and hauling away water from the aquifer, and the well would be at a depth of 4,600 feet “no where near the Chicot Aquifer.” Citing a Hwy 35 traffic count of 4,700 vehicles daily, she said, “Our truckload is a small number.”
Tom Stewart, who told the audience he prepared the well application, said the fresh water and depth was at 1,080 feet and a three pipe transfer system is monitored 24 a day.