School board votes to oppose drilling well

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The Webster Parish School Board approved a motion Monday to draw up a resolution and write a letter to the Office of Conservation in opposition of a proposed commercial deep well injection disposal facility near Dubberly.

Seven board members voted to approve the resolution and letter while two abstained. Three members were not present.
The letter will be presented to conservation officials at a public hearing on the matter scheduled Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Minden Civic Center.

Webster Parish Police Juror Steve Lemmons, district 7, addressed the school board seeking the letter because he feels the issue concerns the safety of the children who live in that area. His emotional plea was not just for the kids who load and unload from a bus every day but for his community.

“This is serious to us,” he said, turning and addressing Dubberly residents in attendance. “This is our community.”
The issue surrounds the site at Peachtree and Jack Martin Road in Dubberly where Nelson Drilling has drilled a disposal well which, company owners say, is to handle salt water disposal from its own producing oil and gas wells.
Lemmons told board members the owner “lied to us up front,” claiming the owner said he would not put the well up for commercial use.

And concerns are not just limited to the children.

Letters of opposition have already been written by the police jury and the City of Minden to the Office of Conservation Environmental Division citing potential contamination to surface and groundwater should a spill occur. Webster Parish is in a recharge area for the Sparta Aquifer, the parish’s main water source.

Ben McGee, supervisory hydrologist with the United States Geological Service, states in an email to Lemmons, “The potential for a surface spill in the Dubberly area would represent the largest potential for contamination of groundwater, specifically the Sparta Aquifer.

“As such, a surface spill would likely be in direct contact with the Sparta Aquifer and would therefore have the potential to move into the aquifer,” he continued. “…outcrop areas should be given special consideration with regards to establishing any potential source of groundwater contamination (e.g. saltwater disposal wells, landfills, municipal treatment facilities, underground storage tanks, etc.).”

He explained in his email that any recharge to the Sparta obtained in the outcrop area around Dubberly moves toward the Minden pumping center.

“In other words, a portion of the water withdrawn from the Minden pumping center (located in downtown Minden) would come from the Sparta Aquifer in and around Dubberly,” he reports.

Lemmons also said Dubberly Mayor William “Curtis” Hirth told him the village’s water system could not handle the amount of water the company wants to use.

Also, heavy trucks, to the tune of up to 40 per day, will be on a road that is not equipped to handle the weight of continuous trips, Lemmons said. Projected costs of bringing the road to meet standards to handle that weight will cost approximately $700,000 – which the police jury does not have, he said.

Lemmons says Nelson Drilling is willing to pay those costs but the police jury is seriously considering lowering the weight limit on the road if or until the road is brought to standard.

The motion to draw up a resolution and write a letter to the Office of Conservation in opposition to the proposed project was made by Jerry Lott, seconded by Linda Kinsey.

Water officials, elected officials and Hirth will be in attendance at Thursday’s public hearing. Lemmons asked the school board to attend the meeting as well, and urged members of the public to come and ask questions. A petition containing signatures of those opposing the well will also be presented to state officials at the hearing.

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