Leader Blues

Friday, March 12, 2010

TOP STORY >> More gas waste worries Beebe area residents

Angry residents who showed up Thursday at Beebe City Hall expressed their feelings against more natural-gas waste processing requested by Arkansas Reclamation Company in the Opal Community in White County. Beebe Mayor Mike Robertson is at left.

By JEFFREY SMITH

Leader staff writer

Emotions ran high Thursday night when a crowd of around 30 came out to voice their displeasure or their support for Arkansas Reclamation Company.

The meeting was part of Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality’s air and water draft permit hearings held at Beebe City Hall.

Arkansas Reclamation is outside the Beebe city limits on 1155 Hwy. 64 West near the community of Opal and employs 38. The facility recycles drilling waste from the natural gas well-drilling industry.

The company wants to expand its operations and has requested to modifications to its air and water permits from ADEQ.

Arkansas Reclamation is planning to add two heated augers, a cooling water tower and hot oil heaters. The company wants to construct an enclosure around a mixing pit. It wants to pave roads at the plant and identify previously unaccounted for emissions from mixing operations and storage tanks.

Arkansas Reclamation also wants a modification to its water permit to construct a waste-storage basin. The company has a non-discharge permit. The facility is 1,200 feet from White Oak Creek.

Tom Jones, co-owner of Arkansas Reclamation, told The Leader that ARC recycles the drilling mud and fluids used by the drilling industry for natural gas wells. He said the mud is made up of diesel fuel, water and emulsifiers that lubricate the drill bits and help to keep the drilling hole open. All the liquid material is recovered from the drilling mud and is resold to the drilling industry.

With the expansion of the facility, Arkansas Reclamation will recycle more diesel fuel from the solid materials in the drilling mud. The solid material is shale that can be used for roadbeds for the base of drilling rigs.

“We have recycled over a million gallons of drilling fluids,” Jones said.

ADEQ staff members took written and oral comments during the hearings.

Staff members and engineers of ADEQ were on hand to answer questions from the audience.

Several people attending the meeting spoke out about the odor of diesel fuel in the air. An ADEQ representative said that there is not a standard for measuring odor. One resident living near the facility said the diesel odor was strongest during humid mornings when the winds blow out of the east. However, a resident living a mile north of Arkansas Reclamation said he has not smelled the odor from the facility.

Bobby Weatherford, whose property borders Arkansas Reclamation, spoke against the expansion of the facility.

He said the odor is terrible. There is noise from the tractor-trailers. He continued to say it was the worst thing to happen to the community and he had very little faith in ADEQ to oversee the operation.

Another resident complained about the rocks and debris brought out from the facility by the trucks onto Highway 64 headed east or west. He said his vehicles have been damaged by rock chips that are kicked up in traffic that strike his windshield and headlights.

He brought a large pickle jar full of rocks and debris. He said he collected the material from the highway near the facility.

“Who is responsible?” he asked.

He said that he would like to bash the windshields out of the ARC’s vehicles.

A resident who refused to give her name after she gave public comment had concerns for the health of her grandchildren. She said the diesel odors burns their noses and they get headaches. She said that she herself has shortness of breath. She said they can’t open their windows at night or open the doors during the day. Her grandchildren cannot play outside.

“We are prisoners,” she said.

She continued, “Why do I have to live like that? Why were my rights taken away? I have no recourse.”

She said that she is on well water, and if Arkansas Reclamation plans to run water underground, she did not know what she would do.

“I am very upset.”

The meeting also had audience members who supported Arkansas Reclamation’s plans for expansion.

Resident Jerry Wood said he was for the approval of the permits. He drove a farm tractor for many years and was around the odor of diesel fuel a lot. He said diesel fuel was not going to kill anyone.

John Wright is a truck driver who hauls drilling materials to Arkansas Reclamation. He said there was a period where you could smell diesel fuel, but the company has a steam application that removes the odor. He does not believe the diesel fuel odor is presently there. Wright said the company brings in tens of millions of dollars into the community.

Carol Johnson has worked for Arkansas Reclamation for two years. She said she does not have problems with her lungs or her taste buds. Johnson plans to stay and eventually retire from Arkansas Reclamation. She said the company has great benefits and are family people.

Johnson said that Arkansas Reclamation is working to make the air cleaner, but that there is nothing wrong with the air out there.