Not all in St. James welcome industrial growth

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 16, 2013

By Kimberly Hopson

CONVENT – Wolverine Terminals, a crude oil processing facility, will soon begin construction on a new terminal in Paulina, but resident David Lambert said he will pull out all the stops to prevent the company from turning his neighborhood into “tank city.”
“Trust me, I will go after it. If something happens, they are going to know who David Lambert is,” he said.
Lambert and his brother, Tyler, share a “764-foot boundary line” with ADM Growmark in Paulina. The family man said he already experienced flooding around his home from ADM and does not want the additional trouble that will come with the terminal’s drainage water in his ditches.
More than that, Lambert said a facility that houses both crude oil and grain just doesn’t mesh well, since crude oil is allegedly a much more aggressive substance with a high flash point. Lambert credits his knowledge from his experience as an industry worker.
“In a catastrophe, if ADM had an explosion, it would impact those railcars. If Wolverine has an explosion or fire, it would impact the grain elevator. These two facilities should not be considered in the same industrial zone together,” said Lambert.
“I make my living through industry. I love the sugarcane industry, and I love farming. If this was something else, if they told me ADM wanted to expand, I wouldn’t blink an eye about it,” he said.
He went on to say Wolverine Terminals may be attempting to manipulate ADM’s lease and grandfathered status to move in without hindrance. Lambert said he initially heard about the Wolverine terminal through a vague press release back in May, though he said the release only referred to a 15-acre site. Because of this, he and other community members did not realize that the crude oil processing plant would be on the same site as ADM until the process was already in the works.
Lambert is not just concerned with his property. He is more worried about the local children in the community. According to him, the Paulina area has grown a great deal within the last 10 years, and most residents now have young children.
“It’s not that we want to stop this terminal from coming in the parish. We just want to have them relocate and move to another zone so they can allow us to live our lives and allow them to be safe and operate away from our homes,” he said. “Not near where the kids play, not near our public drainage. This is not a grain elevator.”
Wolverine Terminals announced that it would begin constructing the $30 million crude oil terminal and blending operation in the fourth quarter of 2014. Phase one of the project will begin with the completion of one 100,000 barrel-capacity tank for storage, blending and domestic shipping. General manager Terry Wilson said subsequent phases, which may include the construction of up to four more tanks and at least 10,000 additional feet of rail track, may occur within the following years, depending on the drive of business.
The project is estimated to produce 20 full-time “quality jobs” and at least 100 construction jobs during development.
Lambert and large number of Paulina residents attended last week’s St. James Parish Council meeting in force to announce their protest. The protest already gathered more than 600 signatures in less than a month of activity, which is no small feat for such a small community. There, concerned residents Debra Laiche and Charlottte Metge also vented their feelings to council members.
Laiche had read a book that was critical of some of ADM’s practices, and Metge raised an interesting point about he need for buffer zones when dealing with volatile chemical processing facilities.
When asked his opinion of the protesting, Wilson offered a careful reply: “I am aware of the concerns voiced in the council meeting. Concurrently, I’m also aware of community members and businesses that wish to see St James grow and prosper. We look forward to working with the community and being a good corporate citizen.“
As of yet, there are no updates or changes to the project, according to Wilson.
Lambert said he would not consider giving up his land or moving because it has been in his family for generations. His land, a group of 15 homes, is populated by a collection of extended family.
“This is what I have left of my blood,” he said.