Several homeowners and landowners are asking a Baton Rouge court to vacate a permit that the state recently approved for a Lake Charles firm to construct and operate a commercial saltwater disposal facility near Rayne in Acadia Parish.
A lawsuit filed at the 19th Judicial District Court says the area surrounding the proposed well includes fields used for agricultural production of rice, crawfish and soybeans and interconnecting canals that farmers use to irrigate the fields.
The suit, filed Wednesday against the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, claims DNR did not consider alternative projects or sites “that would offer more protection to the environment.”
The plaintiffs include Gilbert and Florence Gossen, who own property near the proposed facility; Donald Gossen, a New Iberia resident who also owns land near the site; H&J Gossen Properties, which owns land and engages in farming activities in and around the site; and Wilma Subra, an environmental chemist and activist in Acadia Parish.
Subra said Friday the lawsuit also is asking the court to grant a stay in the permit process while the suit is pending.
DNR spokeswoman Phyllis Darensbourg said the department could not comment on the pending litigation.
DNR held a public hearing in Rayne in July and approved the permit application of La Tank of Lake Charles in November.
Landowners adjacent to the proposed facility — located about four miles south of Rayne — and nearby homeowners who attended the public hearing cited the threat of saltwater contaminating the Chicot Aquifer, affecting rice and crawfish production. The aquifer is the sole source of drinking and irrigation water for residents and agricultural use.
Opponents of the proposed well site also noted several private water wells within 1,000 feet of the proposed facility.
Marjorie McKeithen, a La Tank representative, said at the public hearing that the proposed well would be at a depth of 4,600 feet and “nowhere near the Chicot Aquifer.”
The suit has been assigned to state District Judge Janice Clark.