Leader Blues

Friday, October 24, 2008

TOP STORY > >Toxic chemicals worry counties

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader senior staff writer

Some Lonoke and Prairie county residents say their counties will get the torn-up roads and chemicals in groundwater, but none of the benefits when toxic mud from gas drilling in the Fayetteville Shale is dumped in their rural neighborhood.

They feel like a dry county that gets the roadside beer cans while a neighboring wet county gets the revenues from alcohol sales.

In a special meeting Tuesday night, the Lonoke County Quorum Court joined the Prairie County Court and unanimously approved a resolution encouraging the state Department of Environmental Quality to deny a permit for the dumping of the mud on Prairie County farmland.

In part, the resolution says that permit requirements are “insufficient in its preconditions and protections for protecting groundwater” and that there had been insufficient analysis of current facilities.

The permit applicants are Charles Waters, who owns the land, and two Cabot residents, Bill Baldwin and Karlos Herd.

Cherie Spence Dulany, a Lonoke County resident who lives near the site, told the quorum court that by the time the dump site is completely built out, including acreage across the road in Lonoke County, there could be 120 trucks a day, seven days a week. That’s one truck every 12 minutes, according Leon Miles, who lives in the area. Miles is former superintendent of the Carlisle School District and assistant superintendent at Cabot.

Arsenic, lead, mercury and chloride are among the chemicals that ADEQ would have to test for, Miles noted. If the salt gets into the wells used to pump irrigation water for rice and other crops, it will be destructive for area farmers, he said.

“Ground water in this area is important for farming and minnow farming,” Miles said. The dumping ponds and area where the waste will be spread is in the drainage of the Wattensaw Bayou, which in turn drains into the White River and the White River Wildlife Management Area, he said.

“It looks like they’ll come in off Hwy. 12 in Lonoke County, dump the waste and come back empty in Prairie County,” Miles said. He said weight limits in Prairie County would force the loaded trucks to come in over a chip-seal road in Lonoke, past 24 houses, a ball park and three school bus routes in the two counties. “We’re concerned about the safety of our citizens,” he said. Friday was the final day for public comments before ADEQ makes its decision.

Sam Ledbettor of the McMath Wood law firm in Little Rock was finishing his comments for ADEQ Friday morning. Miles said he had used the state Freedom of Information Act to get reports of numerous violations at 13 other similar disposal sites in the state.