Coalition Threatens Federal Suit to Force Clean Up of Mercury Contamination

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 7 , 2006Coalition Threatens Federal Suit to Force Clean Up of Mercury ContaminationNEW ORLEANS (Dec. 7, 2006) ” A coalition of environmental groups has announced its intent to file a federal lawsuit against EnerVest Operating LLC, a major operator of natural gas wells in the Monroe Gas Field, to force clean-up of mercury- contaminated wetlands and other soils at gas fields in Ouachita, Union and Morehouse parishes in North Louisiana.The Tulane Environmental Law Clinic filed the Notice of Intent to Sue on behalf of the Louisiana Environmental Action Network, Delta (Louisiana) Chapter of the Sierra Club, Gulf Restoration Network, and Louisiana Audubon Council.EnerVest controls more than 3,000 natural gas wells in the Monroe Field. Many of the wells are equipped with mercury meters, which hold as much as 10 pounds of mercury each, to measure gas pressure to determine the volume of natural gas produced. Pools of mercury have been found under the meters, which have contaminated the soils and wetlands around rivers and bayous in and near Monroe.Mercury meters have been phased out in other parts of the country and on federal property in Louisiana in favor of non-polluting, non-mercury flow meters. “We can’t understand why EnerVest persists in using these meters when gas producers were required to clean up mercury and replace the meters in the D’Arbonne and Upper Ouachita National Wildlife Refuges,” says Barry Kohl, Louisiana Audubon Council. “Why are they continuing to contaminate private property?” Currently, there are 41 mercury-in-fish advisories statewide, including seven within the Monroe Gas Field. The Ouachita River, Bayou DeSiard and Black Lake have “mercury-in-fish” advisories that caution pregnant women, women who are breast -feeding, and children younger than seven years of age to limit consumption of fish.”Fishing in the Ouachita River has been impacted by mercury contamination,” says Marylee Orr, Executive Director, Louisiana Environmental Action Network. “A local man was poisoned from eating mercury-contaminated fish. We are standing up and saying ” no’ to the continued pollution by the natural gas industry in our state.” The Coalition asks EnerVest to reply and to present a plan to clean up the mercury waste. If it does not, the environmental organizations are committed to the filing a federal suit to force the clean-up.”In the ” Sportsman’s Paradise’ it’s unconscionable that EnerVest continues to jeopardize the public and wildlife with their irresponsible operations,” states Aaron Viles, Campaign Director with the Gulf Restoration Network. “They need to shape up and clean up.” ###CONTACTS:Barry KohlLouisiana Audubon Council(504) 861-8465Leslie MarchDelta (Louisiana) Chapter of the Sierra Club(985) 249-1160Aaron VilesGulf Restoration Network(504) 525-1528 x207Marylee OrrLouisiana Environmental Action Network(225) 205-1438Adam BabichTulane Environmental Law Clinic(504) 862-8800