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Oilfield Waste Disposal Facility Under Construction

Tue, 08/26/2014 - 10:46am
Associated Press

HOUMA, La. (AP) — Vanguard Environmental has begun construction on the controversial oilfield-waste disposal facility north of downtown Houma.

Meanwhile, The Courier reports (http://bit.ly/1BYradJ ) attorneys hired by Terrebonne Parish government are continuing efforts to halt the facility's operation.

The company has given notice to state regulators that it is preparing to drill the well into which oilfield wastewater will be injected 4,000 feet into the ground below Houma.

Patrick Courreges, spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, says the wastewater will be pumped from vacuum trucks into a series of tanks on site to settle out solids and oil before it is pumped into the well.

Terrebonne government waged an unsuccessful legal battle against the construction of the facility arguing parish laws prohibited such operations in close proximity to homes and a school.

Ultimately courts held that state law under which Vanguard was granted a permit supersedes parish rules. That's because the waste involved is from oil and gas production and thus considered non-hazardous under state law, though it's toxic by any other measure.

Though the facility is now being built, parish officials confirmed that their efforts to have discussion over the waste well's permits reopened continues, said Parish Administrator Al Levron. Officials declined to elaborate on that, though they've openly discussed those efforts previously.

Since the Louisiana Supreme Court declined to hear the parish's final appeal, attorneys have focused on critiquing the facility's exemption from air permit requirements.

Vanguard is exempt from obtaining an air emissions permit under a 2008 law that excludes facilities that annually emit less than five tons of regulated pollutants. If required to get a permit, public comment and subsequent reporting requirements would kick in. The company's exemption was granted by the state Department of Environmental Quality, which is responsible for carrying out rules stipulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"We don't think their exemption from the air permit is legitimate," said Houma financial planner Chris Domangue, a neighbor of the proposed well and founder of the group We Can Guard Houma.

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