Plans by a Halliburton subsidiary to build a chemical plant in north Vermilion Parish are being challenged by a group of residents in the surrounding area. Known collectively as Citizens Against Multi-Chem, the group will meet at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday at the Indian Bayou Volunteer Fire Department to take the first steps in mounting a campaign against the plant going up on about 20 acres off La. 92 between Maurice and Indian Bayou.

“We understand that Vermilion Parish has no zoning restrictions,” says Marcella Manuel, a business owner who lives about a half from the plant. Manuel says she learned about the project less than two weeks ago and has become an outspoken opponent. “We’re also aware that lots of people including elected officials knew this was coming down the pike and nobody was informed. Some of the government agencies that we’ve spoken to are telling us that stipulations and contingencies could be placed upon the permit at the local level, so those are some possibilities, too.”

Manuel cites a host of concerns about the plant — from water quality and property values to public safety. The plant is a replacement facility for the Multi-Chem plant in New Iberia that was destroyed by an explosion and ensuing fire last July, prompting a mandatory evacuation of residents living within a one-mile radius of the plant.

Manuel says the petition drive will target residents living within a 10-mile radius of the plant: “This is the thing: Lafayette doesn’t understand that when you do a 10-mile radius it goes up to Acadiana Mall. It goes across I-10. It includes Rayne, so we’re planning on getting Acadia and Lafayette parishes involved as well.”

About 20 people now number among the core of Citizens Against Multi-Chem. Some members, Manuel says, are reaching out to area lawmakers.

“We haven’t even touched the vast majority of the population [yet],” she says.

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