Blackwater New Orleans LLC’s attempt to expand its chemical-storage facility in Westwego, Louisiana, might be hampered by the company’s recent public comments.
Frustrated by not receiving approval for previous expansion plans, the company’s CEO Michael Suder called Westwego ‘the stupidest place on Earth’.
Since then Suder has personally called the Mayor to apologise.
Blackwater is seeking to expand its facility by 12 tanks and 450,000 barrels of storage space over the next three years, but has yet to gain the necessary approvals.
The new proposal is very similar in size to the expansion the company presented to city officials a year ago, but the main difference is that, previously, Blackwater wanted to store combustible diesel fuel. Now, Chief Commercial Officer Frank Marrocco says the company would house only non-hazardous, non-combustible and non-flammable products at the facility.
‘Just basically more of what we’re doing today, and what we’ve done in the past,’ saya Marrocco, who noted that the company recently stopped storing sulphuric acid, which had been a source of frustration for residents and city officials.
Marrocco asked the council to approve the general outline of the company’s expansion plans, which would add more than 16 million gallons of material to the site, and then allow Blackwater to present the individual tanks to the city’s building inspector on a piecemeal basis.
Marrocco readily admitted that Suder’s comments were unacceptable and should not have been made. He said the company was very frustrated when their proposal was killed, and Suder spoke out of frustration. He asked officials to forgive those comments, and said Blackwater wants to have an amicable relationship with the city.
However, city officials questioned whether that would be possible, noting that not only has the company failed to follow through with some of its previous promises, but is asking for an open-ended commitment from the city with very few details. Councilmen Ivy Rogers and Melvin Guidry criticized Blackwater for failing to paint its existing tanks as it promised, a failure Marrocco attributed to tight budgets after the initial expansion and its potential revenues fell through.
Guidry scoffed at the explanation, noting that if the company is planning a multimillion-dollar expansion, it must have the money to do painting.
In response to this Marrocco tells Tank Storage magazine that the painting began several weeks ago, and this is an ongoing process, which may take several years.
Councilman Ted Munch said that without a definite, detailed building permit application, Blackwater cannot receive any sort of approval from the council. He said Westwego no longer gives out open-ended building permits and that the company needs to come back to the council with more information about what will be stored in the tanks and when each tank will be built. Marrocco said some of that information is currently unknown, and city officials suggested he wait until it was known before he sought a permit.