Residents of the Hall Summit area joined others from throughout Red River Parish in opposition to a proposed deep wastewater injection well proposed by Pinnergy, LTD of Austin, Texas. They packed the third floor Police Jury meeting room at the Courthouse and overflowed into the hallway last Thursday night.
The purpose of the hearing was to receive input and comments from the public on the proposed well. All but one speaker was in opposition. State Senator Gerald Long spoke first and he talked on the importance of citizens having the right to speak on public issues. He asked that the final order from the state Conservation Department find that what Pinnergy does is in the best interest of Red River Parish. Sentiments of the citizens having their say on the proposal also came from State Representative Terry Brown.
Sheriff Glen Edwards said “My primary objective is public safety. I drove to the location. There is concern over the number of tanker trucks going in and out per day. The location does not seem feasible.”
The Social Springs Community Water System was represented by Attorney Matthew Kelley of the Bethard law firm. He submitted several documents in opposition. One was a letter from the Police Jury expressing concerns of the proposed well’s proximity to water wells of the water system. There was a letter from an adjacent property owner stating there was a private well within the 1,000 foot setback in the administrative code that lists location criteria for that type of facility. Kelley said that the water system’s wells are only 1,700 feet away from the proposed disposal well. He expressed concern over possible subsurface or surface contamination. Kelley said, “If contaminated, it would devastate the water system and it could not supply water to the 430 households it serves. They have no other access to water.”
Several members of the Social Springs Water System spoke along with several customers. Their primary concerns were close proximity of the proposed injection well to private and water system wells. Also of concern is the large volume of trucks that would be going in and out of the facility every day, their impact on traffic on US 371 and LA 515, and the danger posed to motorists.
Wilma Subra of the Louisiana Environmental Action Network told the hearing that the Pinnergy application is flawed and inconsistent. She said 7 other sites in the parish were considered and rejected by Pinnergy. Subra said, “the well will serve Red River, Bienville and Bossier parishes. It was illegal to limit their search area to only Red River.
Subra added, “Pinnergy’s application was for two disposal wells but the proposed site is only for a single well. There is talk of a future pipeline to transport more waste to the facility which would require a third well.” Other objections included a lack of monitoring wells to detect any leakage from the injection well to the surface or subsurface water supplies.” Subra concluded, “Destruction of the environment is outweighed over the benefits.”
Other concerns were possible smell and noise generated by the site when in operation, possible runoff from the site getting into local creeks and eventually making it to Grand Bayou Reservoir, and a reduction in property values caused by the well at that location.
Randy Thomas, Jr. was the only person to speak in favor of the proposal. Thomas said, “I am a lifelong resident of Red River and I have been asked by Pinnergy to say what they do as a company. They haul 100% of the saltwater (from GEP, which is Thomas’ employer,) and it is non-toxic. There were mummers throughout the crowd as Thomas spoke. He said, “I know of 4 disposal wells close to people’s houses they probably do not know are there. It is not toxic.” Thomas continued, “I understand your concerns about living close to the proposed facility. Look at the facility they operate on highway 84. They operate clean and they operate safe.”
The Office of Conservation will receive public comment on the application through October 3rd. Then the application will be reviewed, and a decision made. The hearing officer, F. Jonathan Rice, did not give any timetable on a decision in the matter.