Willow Springs

Willow Springs is a rural community in Calcasieu Parish. A hazardous waste site had been concerning residents of Willow Springs since the 1950s. In 1972, the site was purchased by Browning-Ferris Industries, Inc. (BFI). At this time there were no permits required to operate the facility. Along with open waste lagoons, BFI used an old well hole leftover from oil exploration, for deep well injection of waste (Houck).

In the late 1980s, BFI, now under the purview of the Environmental Control Commission had to apply for a permit that was then approved, but with important restrictions. The open waste pits would be closed, but the deep well injection could continue. Imported waste would have to be stored in tanks until it was to be injected. (Houck).

As a last effort to stop the contamination at Willow Springs, residents filed a civil case. The case asked for “personal and property damage by some 400 Willow Springs residents, and for an injunction closing the site”. The trial lasted six weeks, and the jury found that BFI did not operate negligently. No money was awarded in damages to the residents involved in the lawsuit. Following the suit, BFI hired a mediator to settle with the other residents, amounting to a few thousand a home depending on proximity to the site and exposure levels (Houck).

With continued press events, protests, and government involvement, the dump was closed and is currently in a “post-closure” phase. Residents and environmentalists are working to make sure that the site continues to be monitored for any spread of contamination and to make sure no one forgets what happened to the people of Willow Springs (KPLC 2023)