Changes may slow Ark. wastewater pipeline The News Star - Monroe, Louisiana

By Johnny Gunter

Keith Skinner, a member of Save the Ouachita Inc.,
The organization is working to block the dumping of chemical deposits from Arkansas,
which may pollute the river in Louisiana.

The rundown
LAST WE KNEW: El Dorado, Ark., Great Lakes Chemical Co., Lion Oil and
El Dorado Chemical are planning a 9-mile pipeline to the Ouachita River to discharge
a maximum of 20 million gallons of effluent daily into the river.
THE LATEST: El Dorado
and the companies have now shortened that pipeline to stay within the budget that was
projected more than a year ago.

Save the Ouachita Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the river's environment, is requesting that amended permit applications be submitted for the new route to the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality. WHAT'S NEXT: Save the Ouachita continues to drum up support from environmental groups south of El Dorado.

Pete Parks of the city's Water and Sewer Commission plans to meet with public officials of Monroe
and West Monroe after April 15 to answer any public concerns. Warren, Ark., resident Clyde Temple fought a long battle with that city during the 1980s to keep city officials from dumping untreated sewage into the Saline River. "It took us a little over eight years to get that case settled," Temple said. "Now, here I am in my 70s and fighting another battle."

Temple's latest fight: trying to keep the city of El Dorado and three industries from dumping 20 million
gallons of effluent daily into the Ouachita River. Opponents, such as Temple, say the project has hit
another stumbling block because El Dorado now wants to run its pipeline a shorter distance to the
river to cut costs. During those years he fought for the Saline River, Temple said he wasn't the most
popular person in Bradley County, but he feels the fight was worth the results.

A federal judge ruled in favor of a lawsuit filed by the Committee for a Clean Saline, ordering the city of Warren to construct a new wastewater treatment plant. "(The city) ended up getting $4 million in (federal) grants to construct a new wastewater treatment plant that's still operating fine today," Temple said. "Now, everybody is happy, and there's no more green algae clogging Saline." The Saline River is a major tributary of the Ouachita, so Temple is against the pipeline project proposed by the city of El Dorado, Great Lakes Chemical Co., Lion Oil Co. and El Dorado Chemical.

Richard Mays, an environmental attorney representing Save the Ouachita Inc., said the change from an existing pipeline right-of-way to a different, shorter route should require an environmental study. He said the city and industries should file amended permit applications. He has asked the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality to request that amended applications be filed. However, Arkansas DEQ spokesman Doug Szenher said rerouting the pipeline is something the state agency would have to review. He said it would require permitting if the outfall into the river is changed.

He said it is DEQ's understanding that the outfall won't be changed. Pete Parks, who serves on the city's Water and Sewer Commission, says the new right-of-way is being surveyed and was not aware if any amended permits would be necessary. Parks said the shorter route to the river would keep the city within its $9.6 million share of the project that is projected to cost $17 million. He denied reports that a cheaper pipe would be used to cut costs.

Additional combined effluent testing reports have been filed with ADEQ, Parks said, and they show no harmful affects would occur to the river. Parks said new DEQ regulations involving the three companies'
discharges into the smaller streams have been made more stringent and the companies really
have no other choice but to go with the pipeline project.

Currently, the three companies run their wastewater into smaller creeks that then run into Bayou D'Loutre, which eventually empties into the Ouachita River between Monroe and Sterlington.

Save the Ouachita, a nonprofit group in El Dorado that is dedicated to maintaining the river's environment, has been drumming up support down river by visiting with environmental groups. Parks, who is a certified public accountant, says he plans to visit with public officials in Monroe and West Monroe after the April 15 income tax deadline.

"We did consider those downstream from us, and we would like to address any concerns they might
have," Parks said. Save the Ouachita Inc. President Kent Stegall said the group's two main concerns
are the wastewater from the city's two wastewater treatment facilities and with El Dorado Chemical.

The company produces ammonia nitrate fertilizers and its discharges include ammonia and some
acids. Great Lakes Chemical and Lion Oil are not major concerns, Stegall said, because their effluent
is basically cooling tower water.

Stegall said the city should not take on the liability it might face if there
is a major spill from El Dorado Chemical. His group would like to see the city construct new wastewater
facilities. According to Parks, the cost of constructing new facilities has been estimated anywhere
from $20 million to $40 million. Parks said he understands the concerns about El Dorado Chemical
but said the company will be required to reduce its ammonia discharge by 90 percent before it can
participate in the pipeline project.

He said the company will spend some $3 million to reduce its ammonia output. "If they can't meet the new criteria, they'll have to shut the plant down," Parks said. According to Parks, the proposed project will have a real time monitoring system, meaning the effluent will be monitored on a continuous basis. West Monroe resident Keith Skinner says he's opposed to the project and will fight it to the end. The wildlife photographer is currently developing a documentary type video of pollution problems along the Ouachita River.

Skinner doesn't believe El Dorado Chemical or the city have made sufficient plans in case there is a spill. Temple blames the regulatory agencies for not making municipalities and industries clean up their discharges.

"We shouldn't be fighting this batter," Temple said. "We have people in these agencies that we're paying to take care of this and they're just not doing their jobs."

Dugan Sabins of the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality said the ADEQ is keeping Louisiana apprised of the permitting process. He said Arkansas would be furnishing them with information on how the project might affect the Ouachita down river.

Article Originally published April 8, 2005