Concerns about Sabal Trail hiring local contractors

Concerns about Sabal Trail hiring local contractors
(Source: WALB)

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Dougherty County District 5 Commissioner Harry James says an out-of-state company is looking to do work on a major gas pipeline, work he says should be contracted locally.

James believes a Texas company is working on paperwork to handle porta-potties on the work-site.

District Health says they haven't received any notice yet.

For James, and other opponents of the pipeline, the larger issue is Sabal Trail keeping their promise to hire local and protect the environment.

James says, "When they are skipping something that minor (as hiring local for porta-potties) it really waves flags about the larger things."

In a story we aired in September 2014, a representative from Sabal Trail told a packed town hall meeting held at the Government Center in downtown Albany that they would be a good community partner.

"When the company came in they talked about wanting to use local people and 'our concerns are your concerns' and what not," says James.

James says rumors of a Texas company being brought in to handle a relatively small piece of the multi-billion dollar project concerns him.

"You have several local companies here, well-known, great guys, that could have handled that."

Ward 4 City Commissioner Roger Marietta says, "In support of Harry, they said--and they have said a lot of things--they promised to use local contractors where possible."

Marietta says he and others predicted that Sabal Trail would not be an economic boon to the area, and that the focus should be on making sure code enforcement and other environmental regulators are keeping a watchful eye on the project and enforcing the rules.

James says, "there is no good policing in process" when it comes to dumping out sewage.

In the 1990's, the water in James' District 5 was contaminated by improper sewage dumping.

James says the clean-up cost Dougherty County taxpayers $1.5 million dollars.

The Floridian Aquifer is very close to the surface, and the water is easily polluted.

James worries that an outside contractor handling porta-potty sewage dumping, without strong policing, could create another water pollution problem if the sewage is handled improperly.

"For me, as a resident of District 5 and a Commissioner of District 5, when you start talking about (the 1990's sewage dumping scandal) it brings up a bad taste, bad memories," says James.

Marietta says that federal, state and local code enforcement must make sure Sabal Trail complies with environmental rules, "The state and the city adopted a new watershed protection ordinance that requires the city to go in, even in eminent domain, and enforce erosion controls and things like that."

A spokesperson for Sabal Trail emailed us that their "contractors have been in contact with numerous local vendors seeking their services. We are committed to using local contractors whenever possible."

It's been reported that Sabal Trail has received its final permits, and that construction on the 465 mile-long pipeline could begin as soon as Wednesday.