|Published:||Sep 10, 2013 10:34 PM EDT|
|Updated:||Sep 10, 2013 11:34 PM EDT|
COLLIER COUNTY, Fla - Collier County families say they're fearing the worst! Contaminated water, dead animals and even explosions.
For the very first time, they vented to the government about a controversial plan to drill three oil wells right in their backyard.
They would go in a rural area of Golden Gate Estates near Desoto Boulevard and 24th Avenue Southeast just north of Alligator Alley.
Within the next three weeks, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will either approve or deny the permit giving neighbors against it one last shot to get their concerns out.
The spot along the eastern edge of Golden Gate Estates has sparked a lot of controversy.
"A lot of the drilling that's been going on in South Florida occurs in remote locations and that's not by rule, it's just by happens, so they go where the oil is and there's been a show of oil in this location," says Danielle Irwin, Department of Environmental.
In the past 70 years, there have been 300 oil wells in Collier County, but this one doesn't sit right with those who live nearby.
Susan Conner says, "we can't see the damage that the cancer causes, the problems that are caused until years later."
Neighbors understand that drilling in Collier County has been going on for many years, but they say this time around, the big difference is how close the drilling sight is to their home.
Gina Ruocchio of Naples lives more than 20 miles from the sight, but still has concerns. She says, "I just feel like it's going to be another hit IF something were to go wrong, humans make mistakes, machines fail, things go wrong, things that you don't plan for and there's no benefit for any of the citizens, it's only risk."
Tuesday night, wildlife experts were on hand to hear concerns from neighbors about the potential impact on wildlife. Darrell Land, the Panther team leader for FWC says, "panthers have co-existed with existing oil extraction sights in Southwest Florida and we really did not feel this was going to be a significant impact on Panthers so we chose to no comment on this project."
He says when they reviewed the sight, they saw the area was already disturbed. "The applicant wasn't asking to build new roads or take hundreds of acres of habitat and that helped us reach that conclusion of no comment."
The DEP brought in engineers and inspectors to explain the wells won't affect water quality and as far as drilling so close to homes, officials say that's not a factor for them when they look at a permit.
Irwin says Dan A Hughes Company out of Texas targeted an already disturbed location. "It's making use of an existing road and those are considerations that are under the rule. We want to reduce surface impacts and surface disturbance so using a sight previously disturbed like an agricultural field, is a benefit, a way to minimize impacts."
If approved by the DEP, there will be a 21 day challenge period. If it is challenged, an administrative law judge will make the final decision. Not only do the wells need be approved by the DEP by September 30, but they also need to be given the green light by the Environmental Protection Agency.
At this point, there's no firm date about when drilling could start.
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