Tank farm gets DEQ permits

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 11, 2008

Opponents relegated to fight over buffer zone


Editor and Publisher

LAPLACE – Necessary permits for Safeland Storage, LLC to construct a tank farm in the Garyville/Mt. Airy area were approved this week by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

Safeland spokesman Danny Guidry confirmed to L’Observateur that his firm was notified by DEQ that air and water permits were approved for the tank farm, which will be constructed on 400 acres of land to the west side of Garyville.

Guidry said that land clearing should begin within two weeks for the administrative building, and Phase I of the tank farm, which will include 27 tanks on the far west side of the building.

No further permits are necessary to build the tank farm, since state permits are all that are needed, according to St. John Parish Attorney Jeff Perilloux.

“The parish doesn’t have the expertise to evaluate industrial sites, so when a company gets DEQ permits, that is all that is needed,” he said. “Once the state issues the permits, we go along with the project.”

The tank farm has been a matter of controversy with a group from Garyville and Mt. Airy, as an organization named Safe Our Neighborhood has fought it from the beginning.

However the DEQ permits now give Safeland the right to move forward with the project, leaving Safe Our Neighborhood the prospect of having to go to court to stop it.

While opponents of the project originally were fighting to stop the tank farm entirely, the key issue more recently came down to ensuring there was a large buffer zone on the east side of the property, where Garyville and Mt. Airy residential sits.

Guidry said his company will adhere to the parish regulation of 600 feet of buffer zone from the edge of their property. Currently there is a piece of land 300 feet deep from present residential to the Safeland property, meaning that for now there will be a 900 foot buffer for those who already live in those areas.

“We have said from the beginning that we are trying to do all we can to work with the neighborhood and make our project the best it can be, in terms of not affecting anyone in the area,” Guidry said. “The thing I will say to the people in the area closest to the tank farm is that when we have it constructed, you will not even know it will be there since there is 600 feet of woods on that buffer zone.”

Phase I of the tank farm will be a $200 million project, with Phases II and III adding $175 million investment to the area, which won’t begin for five years.

Carl Monica, head of Save Our Neighborhoods, said his group is also upset since parish officials did not look into the additional concern of a Diversion Canal that was supposed to be built through the property, which would have brought river water to the swamp.

“The parish officials have never given us a dialogue about this and now we’re forced into a position of just having to compromise and fight for the best buffer zone we can get,” he said. “I blame the politicians more than anyone for this happening. It’s just not the American way to not even get our voice heard.”

Monica said he will forward information about the permit OK to the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic, which became interested in the tank farm, and see if they, or any other agency wants to seek court action to stop the project. However he said his group is not currently planning on a lawsuit.

Guidry said his group is intent on hiring as many local people as possible, and already has received “very impressive resumes” from many people around here.

“We should get five to six people who have worked in industry in this area with 30 years experience or more, and overall we have already gotten 50 to 75 resumes,” he added.

Guidry said his group is also looking into building an additional levee on the east side of the property, to add additional insurance that nothing will affect the people of Garyville and Mt. Airy.

“We will naturally have the required dykes around each tank as we must build, but we are looking into building an extra levee all along the east side of the property for extra protection to the people here,” he said.

Guidry said Safeland will still buy the $750,000 fire truck promised to the Garyville department, although they will have to donate it to the parish to follow proper rules so that it can then be donated to the Garyville department.

Additionally, he said, Safeland will donate money to recreation facilities already in the works for Mt. Airy.