A decision by the state Department of Environmental Quality to give the go-ahead to a controversial sand and gravel mining operation in Livingston Parish in October is being challenged in Baton Rouge state court.
Louisiana Environmental Action Network, the neighborhood group Save Our Hills Inc. and resident O’Neil Couvillion filed suit Monday asking a judge to send the decision back to DEQ for more review.
At issue is a proposal from Southern Aggregates LLC to build a new sand and gravel mining operation on a 230-acre property in Livingston Parish. Although there is no zoning in the area to prohibit the mining operation, the property line is about 200 feet away from the Oak Hills subdivision in Watson.
Residents of the subdivision of more than 220 homes expressed grave concerns to DEQ about water quality, dust, noise, traffic and the reduction of property values because of the closeness of the proposed operation.
Southern Aggregates, which operates other mines in the parish and supplies sand and gravel to projects all over the state, needed to get a federal permit because of wetland impacts that would occur. As part of that federal wetland permitting process, the state is required to first issue a Water Quality Certification which DEQ granted in October saying that the activity requested under the federal permit won’t violate the state’s water quality standards.
The lawsuit states that in approving the certification, DEQ failed to do a cost-benefit analysis, didn’t analyze possible alternative sites that would have less impact and didn’t make the use of best management practices by the business a condition of the certification. Southern Aggregates said they intend to use best management practices, but there was nothing added to the certificate to mandate it, said Adam Babich, director of the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of the groups.
In addition, the lawsuit states that DEQ’s failure to look at environmental, social and economic impacts of the project is a violation to the department’s public trust duty under the state constitution.
“They said we’re only going to look at water quality,” Babich said.
The Water Quality Certification is the state’s one chance in the wetland process to put on conditions or look for sites with less impact for the good of Louisiana residents, he said.
“It’s not enough to submit some papers and call it an alternatives analysis,” Babich said. “DEQ just dropped the ball entirely on public trust.”
The lawsuit asked the court to throw out the Water Quality Certification and send the issue back to DEQ for more review and to halt any action on the certification until the appeal is resolved.
A DEQ official said they have yet to receive a copy of the suit and could not comment on ongoing litigation.
Follow Amy Wold on Twitter @awold10.