Passionate pleas from New Iberia residents to deny permits to owners of a new waste facility company within the city limits resulted in a unanimous “no” vote from the New Iberia’s Planning and Zoning Committee.
MedGreen LLC, the company which was asking for permission to process Type II Solid Waste on property located at 319 Camelia Street, still has a shot at becoming New Iberia’s newest business. That will only happen if the city council members gives the company permission at the next meeting which is scheduled for Tuesday.
It was an uphill battle for the partners to convince the planning board, and a standing room only crowd of residents, that their facility would not cause harmful effects to the local environment.
MedGreen LLC’s explanation was thorough.
“Once everyone understands our process you’ll understand that we are not threatening,” Steve Haik, a MedGreen partner said.
According to Haik, the facility would house and process potentially infectious biomedical waste, which he described as materials like bloody gauzes from hospitals syringes, medical caps and gowns. The facility would also process animal and plant health inspection service waste.
“Self contained materials would be transported to us from the hospitals and veterinarians, they would go into a self-contained autoclave which is like an oven, once it is outside of the autoclave it goes into a compact and then it is dumped into a landfill,” Haik explained.
Haik made several attempts to explain that an autoclave is not like an incinerator and that there would be no burning and burying of materials and there would be less emissions.
The company brought with them to Wednesday’s meeting an environmental specialist from Eagle Environmental Services named Matt Vidrine, who has advised them through their startup process and helped answer questions from the audience.
Several objections, though, would surface.
The first was presented by Geri Frederick, who lives in the Shadows Bend subdivision near which the facility would be located. Frederick handed the zoning committee 108 signatures from homeowners opposed to the facility and 58 more signatures from patrons of Pelicans on the Bayou. Frederick also said she has a letter from the owner of Jane’s Seafood in New Iberia which said owner Vu Tran had the soil tested at the proposed location in consideration of buying the property only to find that the soil was contaminated.
Wilma Subra, President of Subra Company, said she has experience working with several environmental organizations and there were several missing pieces of information in MedGreen’s application to obtain the Special Use/Conditional Use Permit.
Subra noted that information from the Department of Transportation, regarding how many trucks would be on the road as a result of the business, was not included in the application. Subra also stated that the facility did not adhere to the 200-foot buffer required between it and the residents, and that the application also didn’t state the number of employees or give the use of its operations in details.
MedGreen representatives answered all questions relating to the missing information and said it had received permission from its adjacent locations to lessen the 200-foot buffer, that there would be six to eight employees running the facility and all operations would have to be compliant with regulations of the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Health and Hospitals.
Residents though weren’t convinced.
“This type of business will stigmatize us. For six jobs to be brought to the city is it worth it?” Realtor Carolyn Groner asked the committee.
“We want growth but if we allow waste companies to come in we’re going to drive away business and we’re going to drive residents away,” Groner continued.
Residents also expressed concerns that a hurricane or other natural disaster would leave nearby Shadow Ben residents vulnerable to the contents of the facility. They also spoke about the possibility of the business expanding from an eight-hour ran facility to one with several shifts that would create noise, odors and may lead to other cities across the state bringing their waste to New Iberia.
Committee Member Edwina Bell made a motion to deny the permit to MedGreen LLC stating issues with the permit application as well as the opposition of residents as her reasons.
Keith Lapeyrouse seconded the motion.
Pat Wells, George Allen, Mike Cormier and Lloyd Verrett all agreed.
MedGreen will now go before the New Iberia City Council on Tuesday where the Planning and Zoning Committee will discuss their reasons for denial.