By Meceal Smith
GUEYDAN - Who said “Grown men don’t cry?
Whoever uttered those words should have attended the meeting of Gueydan residents Thursday at Gueydan Library.
The meeting was requested by residents in the rural areas of Ellis Bridge and Oliver Road. Forty-six people were in attendance at the hearing concerning Toce Energy wishing to place a salt water injection well in that area of Gueydan. Landowners from Gueydan, as well as from surrounding towns spoke against the proposed well.
The audience (both men and women) dabbed at teary eyes as Ellis Bridge resident Charlene Jannise, the originator of a petition protesting the well, gave testimony.
Jannise read a list of legally documented deaths from cancer by doctors who attributed the causes to toxic chemicals and contaminants, not from smoking or other more familiar causes.
Jannise named the victims and detailed their symptoms and their relationships within families — fathers, mothers, several children, several cousins in the same families, who have all died with the same type of cancer.
Louella Marcantel from Lake Arthur, took issue, “not with the wells,” she explained, “but with the companies who don’t follow the regulations. Their truckers are seen dumping the waste in roadside ditches and canals.”
She addressed board member Joe Ball referring to a statement he had previously made that “cancer isn’t good enough an excuse not to have injection wells”
She reproached him pointing to a folder filled with records of deaths of her family members and said, “This is my excuse!”
One speaker told how several nurses who live in the area say they have witnessed truckers hauling the waste and dumping truckloads of chemicals in roadside ditches. This is done late at night, and is witnessed by workers who drive home late at night after their duty at hospitals out of town.
Police Juror Leon Broussard read a letter from a landowner and resident who listed several reasons why he opposes the well project.
The landowner, a geologist with 30 years in the oil and gas indusry, now working in Saudi Arabia, offered various environmentally safe methods of erecting the proposed injection well site.
Mike Jannise, husband of Charlene Jannise, explained how storm surges can spread the contamnants from the canals and ditches destroying the crawfishing and farming industry.
The recent hurricanes forced residents to evacuate their homes and no one was allowed to return for several days. Should any of the salt water injection wells been damaged, HazMat would not have been allowed to enter. As the water receded, chemicals would have spread throughout the area.
Lena Saltzman, who has a thriving business with her crawfish and seafood kitchen, questioned who would pay if she lost her business should their fields be ruined by chemical poisoning.
Art Crowley, from New Iberia asked the board why the meeting wasn’t rescheduled on another day other than on opening day of the Duck Festival. She felt it was an injustice to the citizens of Gueydan. She then stated the board had rescheduled their meeting in New Iberia from the Sugar Cane Festival to another date.
Former State Representative Clara Baudoin gave a report from Wilma Subra, chemist and owner of Subra Com. Subra stated that Toce Energy submitted, on November 2008, a flawed and deficient salt water disposal well permit application for Hal Stelly salt water injection well. The Office of Conservation, Injection and Mining Division, Geological and Engineering Sections reviewed the November 2008 application on April 28, 2009 (Engineering Section). The Geological and Engineering Sections found substantial deficiencies and well designed flaws that did not comply with the regulations.
Senator Nick Gautreaux said, “What concerns me are the people with kidney cancer. It’s time to get water in our area tested.”
The board agreed to allow 20 days extension for the public to send in any comments they wish to make to Docket IMD 2009-05, Office of the Department of Conservation, Box 94275, Baton Rouge, La. 70804-3094.