PPC meeting focuses on BP and the effects of the clean up effortApr 20th, 2011 | By Terri Sercovich | Category: news
The Plaquemines Parish Council discussed numerous topics at their April 14 meeting, and several involved the oil left by BP, and the subsequent and ongoing clean up.
The BP Claim
The Plaquemines Parish Council voted unanimously to retain legal representation who could propose a strategy for filing a claim against BP and all related parties surrounding the Mocondo Well explosion. That explosion resulted in the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon and the resulting spill that still plagues Plaquemines’ marshes and shores.
The ordinance granted Parish President William Nungesser the right to enter into negotiations for filing litigation against BP and the other companies involved, and appropriating the necessary funds. The firm of Martzell and Bickford of New Orleans, along with Attorney David Landry, are to represent the parish in the matter.
Councilman Anthony Buras, District 5, assured residents that the attorneys will receive no hourly fee and are fronting the money for expert witnesses and other costs.
“[The contract] is strictly on a contingency basis, depending upon what monies the government recovers from the suit,” said Councilman Buras.
The contract will read that the attorneys representing the parish will receive fifteen percent of the first $25 million, ten percent in excess of the first $25 million, and all costs advanced by the firm will only be incurred by the parish after the matter is closed.
The motion passed 9-0.
Over the limit
Buras proposed a suspension of council rules, which was approved 9-0, and was able to introduce several additional Army Corps of Engineer actions that called for the temporary suspension of load limits for stretches of Main Street and F. Edward Hebert Boulevard to assist in the construction of the hundred year protection designed by the Corps.
The current weight restrictions are set at 10,000 lbs. By lifting these restrictions, the Army Corps of Engineers’ subcontractors will be permitted to carry full loads as they move materials necessary to compose and complete the 100-year hurricane risk-reduction system for The Greater New Orleans area, including part of Plaquemines Parish.
Attending residents and council members alike expressed their concerns about the number of trucks expected on the roads for the project. Each contractor is expected to have 150 truck loads passing the proposed roads each day, for 56 days. That is almost 16,000 loads through an area with a great deal of traffic congestion and many neighboring schools.
Opponents were concerned about the school age children of the area, especially with baseball and numerous after-school activities taking place a good portion of the day.
Blaire Rittner, the land superintendant for Plaquemines Parish Government, asserted, “The safety factor is [our] primary concern.”
Rittner said that there would be restrictions prohibiting when the trucks could run, for example during major school hours or in the early evening when after school programs take place.
Byron Williams, The Director of Public Service for Plaquemines, said that the earliest he could see the trucks resuming work would be 9 p.m.
Several alternatives were mentioned, including the use of barges, to stem the tide of trucks that would flow down the roadways of Plaquemines for a potential 24-hours a day for nearly 60 days. However, Rittner and Stephanie Mall, representing the Corps, told the council that the use of barges would cost, by conservative estimates, $18 per yard, versus the $8 per yard for the trucks.
“Once again, it’s damn Plaquemines Parish, let’s do what the Corps and the contractor wants to do,” said Councilman Buras on the issue of costs.
“That does not mean we cut corners,” said Mall. “We want the best price for the American tax-payer.”
Councilman Kirk Lepine, District 3, also contested that the increased cost could not be weighed against the safety of the parish children. When he suggested limiting the runs to evening hours, Lepine was told that the bids had been contingent on the prescribed sixty-day window.
“This is not a safe project,” said Buras. “And I hope some of my councilmen see it that way too.”
The Council voted in favor of moving forward with the proposals for the three waivers by a vote of 6-3, with Councilmen Buras, Lepine, and Keith Hinkley, District 2, dissenting.
Boats with oil on the block
Warren Lawrence, a resident of Myrtle Grove, brought it to the Council’s attention that BP subcontractors are utilizing the area’s residential neighborhoods to store their boats when not on the water. Myrtle Grove has been a staging area for some of the cleanup from the BP oil spill.
Lawrence had attempted to solve the issue on his own. However, BP claimed to have no control over subcontractors’ actions, said Lawrence, and he was coming to the council now, after being passed around by other government agencies.
“The only place I didn’t have to go to was animal control,” said Lawrence.
Residents are concerned because these boats parked on their road are driving through areas affected by the spill, and no HAZMAT precautions are being taken that the residents are aware of.
“If they brought [the boats] to Springwood or any of the major subdivisions in the area, it wouldn’t be tolerated,” said Lawrence.
Lawrence was invited to discuss the matter at a separate meeting with administration officials, and was told to return to the Council if the issue remained unresolved.
Other points of interest:
• The Parish President’s Address confirmed that the Doullut Canal Bridge would be open at the end of May.
• There will be a Regional Planning Commission Meeting about the recent census numbers. The current tally has 23,042 people parish wide, but efforts are ongoing to confirm that all of Plaquemines is properly counted. The recount initiative is called “Count, Question, Resolution.”
• The Council heard and granted authority to accept the low bids on contracts. The first was for portable restrooms, which went to United Sites Services. Second was disposal of scrap metals, and that contract went to Pro-Iron and Metals. The Council also passed a resolution for the purchase of an airboat and trailer. The boat will mainly be used by the Fire and HAZMAT squads and possibly the Sheriff’s office, but is for parish wide use. The parish currently has access to two airboats.
• The council declared May 8 – 14, 2011 as “Child Cancer Awareness Week.”
• April 19-21 was declared “Oil Spill Hope Murals Days.” The murals commemorate the men who lost their lives, but also show the positive cultural aspects of the area.
• And President Nungesser’s address reminded all that The N’awlins Air Show will take place the weekend of May 7-8, in Belle Chasse.