PORT MANCHAC- The Manchac area is rich in marsh, fish and water-front living.
On Tuesday, dozens of people showed up to defend it.
"It's a lot of information people really don't know and you can imagine that not knowing, it would cause people concern," said former wetlands researcher Ed Bodker.
The 'it' Bodker is referring to is a proposed graphite refining plant by Syrah Resources. The operation turns the graphite into a by-product that can be used in lithium batteries for the electric car industry. Last month, the South Tangipahoa Parish Port Commission approved a lease allowing the plant to be at Port Manchac for at least four years, with little public knowledge about it.
So the commission held an informational meeting about it.
"The proposed facility is considered a minor source, under Louisiana law, under both air quality and the water quality regulations," said Paul Jahn, a representative with Syrah.
After explaining the process, which includes a salt-based discharge, the potential impacts to the environment and the probable economic benefits for the area, the crowd of residents and business owners peppered Jahn with their concerns about water and air quality, property values, as well as transparency with the public.
"Normally I would be on your side," said businessman Caleb Atwell. "But I'm going to say I am very concerned about this whole deal."
"We've been burned once before," said resident Debbie Methvin, "We don't want to be burned again."
The company says it has dust and emission control systems for the milling operation, which includes filters. Syrah also says the salts in the discharge to be created, which could be as much as 41,000 gallons of water a day, are similar to electrolytes in Gatorade and, according to research and a hydrology study, will not be different in composition than what's already in North Pass.
While most of the company's responses were met with steadfast resistance, parish leaders say they're at the table with an open mind.
"There's still a few steps to go where we're either going to get the answers that we want and make us comfortable or we're going to get the answers that we don't want and we're going to figure out that maybe we don't want that to be here," said Parish President Robby Miller.
The project is still in the very early stages with state and federal permits pending.
However, the Port Commission says they have scheduled another meeting on this topic next month to possibly take action following the public feedback.
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