Tank farm foes are dwindling

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 21, 2007

But small group won’t quit in Garyville dispute


Editor and Publisher

LAPLACE – Judging by the turnout at Tuesday’s Town Hall meeting to discuss the proposed tank farm in Garyville, it appears the opposition to the project is diminishing.

But even as the numbers seem to be dwindling from those who are fighting to keep the tank farm from coming to the western side of St. John Parish, right near residential property there, the determination hasn’t changed among the small group.

Only 27 people turned out for the Town Hall meeting called by Parish Councilman Dale Wolfe, but even as the numbers remain small from those who are vocally trying to stand against the tank farm, the intensity in their fight hasn’t backed down.

“I know the numbers are getting smaller, but we can’t give up on this,” Save Our Neighborhood head Carl Monica said. “We have to continue to do all we can to stop this, or make it the best situation possible for the people of Garyville and Mt. Airy.”

The tank farm is proposed on a 400 acre piece of property that runs from River Road to Airline Highway, on the western side of residential property in that region.

Opponents are still trying to get an older parish ordinance calling for 2000 feet of a buffer zone from the residential to the actual tanks enforced. However officials with Safeland Storage are still saying they will only have 600 feet, which a more current parish ordinance calls for.

Additionally, a Diversion Canal planned through that area many years ago, which had appeared to be closer to reality in the past year, is now a key point of contention since Monica said the canal could be jeopardized, even though Safeland officials have proposed the canal running through the property on the eastern side.

“I talked with federal EPA officials and they said the tank farm could jeopardize whether the Diversion Canal is approved,” he added.

Permits for the tank farm are still under review with the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), but no timetable is seen for when those permits will be issued or denied.

“DEQ officials are still reviewing all the comments submitted, and those taken at the public hearing,” DEQ Spokesman Rodney Mallett said. “But we can’t say when the permit applications will be finished. When we get through all the comments, then we will issue the permits or deny them. However we can’t say how soon that will be.”

Tomy Acosta, a St. John Parish attorney who has lived his entire life in the Garyville area, was one of the outspoken opponents of the tank farm during the Town Hall meeting on Tuesday.

“How can anyone in good conscience put this in somebody’s backyard,” he said, directing the comments at the St. John Parish Council. “This was originally zoned residential, and the parish could re-zone it residential tomorrow if they wanted.”

Monica had gotten the Town Hall meeting called, with the hope that all Parish Council members would attend.

Instead, only three showed up as Wolfe was joined by Ronnie Smith and outgoing Councilman Cleveland Farlough.

Acosta continued to urge the Parish Council to help halt the tank farm.

“The parish has it written in its charter that it can enact any ordinance to protect its people,” he said. “What better way to protect the people of Garyville rather than rezone this residential. I just don’t understand how so many questions about this tank farm could be unanswered, and the process just moves forward.”

Another longtime Garyville resident, Donna Falgoust, urged the council members to consider the historic aspect of the area and protect it.

“We have something in Garyville that no one else in St. John has, and that is the history that the parish actually began here,” she said. “We are trying to preserve the historic district here and I want the council members to keep that in mind.”

Only one person was there in support of the tank farm, as Tommy Bougeois spoke publically from that point.

“I’ve worked at industry and believe me, this tank farm is not anywhere as dangerous as other industries,” he said. “The tanks won’t have steam, and that’s what created accidents at other sites. And this plant will provide jobs that my kids could get.”

Nonetheless, Bourgeois was heckled by the crowd just trying to make his points before Monica had to step in and ask for order.

Save Our Neighborhood has a new mode of opposition they recently found out about as Monica said they have uncovered something in the Home Rule Charter which says any group that has 50 signatures on a petition can force a special meeting of the Parish Council.

“One of our biggest complaints is that the Council really hasn’t listened to us,” he said. “And you can see that most of them didn’t come here tonight either. But we’re going to force a special meeting and then they will have to listen. We will have experts of our own there to tell more about the problems with the tank farm, and maybe we can get some help that way.”