Residents oppose west bank facility

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 18, 2014

By Richard Meek
Contributing Writer

EDGARD – West bank residents filled the St. John the Baptist Courthouse in Edgard on Tuesday night to voice their opposition to a proposed recycling facility.

Terrance Rice of Willow Bend revealed to the Parish Council a proposal to open a facility that would take in construction material but no trash, garbage, food, asbestos, furniture or hazardous waste.

The facility would sit on the site where the company operates a sand mine used to provide sand for construction of levees in the area.

Rice said the site is located on 1,330 acres between River Road to the north and Louisiana Highway 3271 to the south. Currently, 150 acres have been mined, producing more than 3 million cubic yards of clay. The mining has created 29-foot holes throughout the site.

The proposal calls for the construction material to be hauled in and dumped in the holes. According to Rice, each truck coming in would pass under a structure where a spotter would be able to give an eye inspection of what was coming in and hopefully spot any illegal materials.

Rice admitted some unwanted material, such as hazardous waste or garbage, could get by the spotter, but plans call for that material to be hauled away immediately once discovered.

Rice touted the plan as creating at least 6 to 10 jobs, with engineers earning up to $90,000 annually, generating tax revenue and creating additional economic development, but nearby residents vehemently voiced their disagreement.

Two town hall meetings were previously held with company representatives and residents where similar concerns were expressed.

John Cummings, who owns Whitney Plantation, said the facility would be much more than a recycling and mulch operation, fearing “everything would be dumped in there.”

He cited examples in south Louisiana and south Mississippi where facilities that started out with a similar business plan eventually turned into landfills, creating stenches and other problems in the surrounding neighborhoods.

“It’s such a lucrative business if you can get one that one thing you do when you own it is someone from a national outfit will come down to buy it, and it will be a bid you can’t say no to because it will be so much money,” Cummings said. “And those folks buy it, and they have it a dump.

“Before you know, it looks like a Christmas tree,” he said. “Plans don’t’ start out that way but the economics drive it that way.

“It will invite parishes to come to Edgard and dump. We are against that.”

Edgard resident Warren Pierre said he believes the recycling facility will only be the beginning of “something that will not be (beneficial) to the future growth of the parish. In the future when companies and people want to come to move to the area they don’t’ want to move to an area where there is a dump. I want to say in the future this thing will be a negative to this parish.”

Resident Lionel Bailey and other residents claimed ordinances are in place to prevent a landfill to be operated at the site. Bailey said the presentation was a ploy to convince the council to override the zoning ordinances in place.

“If a permit is given, (the owners) are getting the benefits,” said Nancy Dumas.

“We are going downhill because it’s going to be a dump,” she added.

Council members appeared apprehensive about approving such a plan even if it were to come to a vote.

“We are looking at developing the west bank and see it grow, but a landfill is not at the top of my list,” council member Lennix Madere said.

“There are a lot of other things people can to make this parish grow. I want to fill (the area) with houses and businesses,” he added. “It’s quite obvious the people of Edgard have spoken.”

Council Chair Jaclyn Hotard said she “wants what’s good for al of our communities but not at the expense of our residents. Not all growth is good.”

Lucien Gauff, an at-large councilman who represents the west bank, invited Rice to make the presentation because the councilman had heard about the project and wanted to hear what the residents had to say. He said he would not vote for any project the residents opposed.

In other council news, Marvin Perrilloux was elected as incoming chairman and Michael Wright as vice chairman for the upcoming year

Madere was elected chairman of the Finance Committee and Larry Snyder vice chair.