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Aug 12, 2014 7:59 PM by Kari Beal

Residents fight against Multi-Chem water discharge permit

Vermilion Parish residents are fighting a water discharge permit Mutli-Chem in the Maurice area is trying to get approved. The permit would allow the company to release reverse osmosis reject water first into a ditch along the east side of Wilfred Road, then into Bayou Grand Marais and then Bayou Queue de Tortue.

"I have fish, I have bass, I have turtles and wildlife and they are going to be eating that toxic water," Maurice resident Macella Manuel said. "The water near the facility has already backed up into my pond twice this year."

Multi-Chem is owned under Halliburton. A spokesperson for Halliburton, Emily Mir, explained the process of reverse osmosis reject water in further detail.

"Multi-Chem takes city water and reduces its hardness by using commercial water softeners," Mir said. "The resulting waste water stream contains the same materials found in city water at slightly higher concentrations and with trace amounts of the non-toxic water softener."

The fight against Multi-Chem is nothing new in Acadiana. It started in the summer of 2011 ---- when an explosion at multi-chem wrecked the facility in New Iberia. A two day evacuation was issued. OSHA fined the company $49,000, but settled for $24,500. The company was cited on seven violations, including storing chemicals incorrectly and too close together.

The company did not receive any fines from the Department of Environmental Quality or the Environmental Protection Agency. The following year, Louisiana Economic Development award the company $1.85 million property tax exemption for 10 years for their new facility was built near Maurice. The facility built in February 2012 also received an expedited air permit without a public hearing or notice to the community.

The organization Citizens against Multi-Chem was founded by Manuel shortly after Multi-Chem build a facility half a mile from her house in 2012. She explained she relocated to a rural area along LA 92 in Maurice for the scenery. She's a mental health counselor and wanted her to clients to feel at ease.

"Now my clients, on the drive over here, rather than being relaxed they say, ‘is that a chemical plant right there?,'" Manuel said.

Manuel said she wishes there were more laws in Vermilion Parish regulated what industrial facilities could be build in certain areas.

"A place like that needs to be in an area that is zoned specifically for industrial zone use because you don't have residents and you don't have schools nearby, you have evacuation routes in place, you have haze mat personnel," Manuel said.

Manuel is gathering thousands of documents from across the nation detailing violations by multi-chem. She said on assessment forms Multi-Chem put non-applicable for pages at a time.

"The state did not even do full background checks on Multi-Chem," Manuel said. "They've been shut down for violations in places like Ventura, California."

Currently Multi-Chem is shipping its reverse osmosis reject water to a place in Arkansas.

"When they start here we are looking at about 11,000 gallons a day here in Vermilion Parish," Manuel said. "We have 42 chemicals that are considered toxic and hazardous and they would be combining any of these in there."

Multi-Chem's permit application listed trace amounts of copper were detected in the discharge water, but it does not list other pollutants.

"The levels in the discharge are safe as has been determined by LDEQ in those materials," Mir said.

Manuel said she still worries more contaminants could end up in the water than anticipated.

"We don't know if our livestock is going to be safe, if our animals will be safe or the fish in the pond. Well ultimately that ends up meaning are the humans safe?," Manuel said.



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