By Joe Mule’
Golden Gate Estates
For Preserve Our Paradise
Many residents in a three block area of DeSoto Boulevard SE in Golden Gate Estates awoke one morning in April to find a notice at their door from Total Safety Company in Alabama asking for the residents’ emergency contact information in the event that they needed to be evacuated.
Total Safety was working on behalf of the Dan A. Hughes Co., in turn contracted by Collier Resources, owner of 800,000 acres of mineral rights.
Hughes has applied to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) for a permit to drill an exploratory oil well.
As neighbors investigated further, carefully poring over the permit submitted to the FDEP in early May, we discovered that the drilling process involves many potential dangers to safety and health. The drill site would be a mere 1,000 feet from the closest home. No wonder we were now in a potential evacuation zone!
Here are some of the dangers we discovered:
Potential release of hydrogen sulfide gas (H2S), more poisonous than the cyanide gas used to kill soldiers in WWI. H2S is heavier than air, corrosive and highly explosive. When this gas reaches you, you get the smell of rotten egg for a few seconds. Then the gas kills the olfactory sense and you die within 3 to 15 minutes.
The potential for widespread fire, not only from possible ignition of hydrogen sulfide gas as the drilling penetrates below 10,500 feet — the first time this will be attempted so close to a residential area — but also from the combustible oil that they would later be extracted, stored and hauled away.
The enormous rig engines themselves would operate 24/7, with a capacity for 10,000 gallons of diesel fuel.
The oil would be stored in on-site holding tanks.
We live in an area that has only one way in and one way out, two-lane DeSoto Boulevard. We have no fire hydrants. We rely on aircraft with buckets to swoop down into our canals to scoop up water (when canals have water!) to douse a fire.
The Hughes Company evacuation plan relies on calling 911 and getting adequate police, fire, and medical responders into our neighborhood. Residents know that even for routine emergencies, responder stations are not as close as anywhere else in the county.
Before and during the drilling process, convoys of trucks will bring equipment, rig, tanks, worker trailers, thousands of sacks of cement, etc., to the site. If oil is found, oil tanker trucks would be barreling down DeSoto Boulevard, a heavily wooded, two-lane country road, a residential road where three times in the morning and afternoon school buses pick up elementary, middle and high school children.
The drillers would withdraw millions of gallons of fresh water from our acquifers and combine it with the same toxic and carcinogenic chemicals used in fracking. The drillers will not be restricted in their water use as we residents are during our regular droughts. The drilling process is not subject to the same regulations and codes that we residents are as property owners.
After the oil is extracted, the company would take the chemical brine left from the drilling process and deposit it back underground, where it could poison our precious aquifers, the source of well water in Golden Gate Estates and the same fresh water used by urban Naples.
Residents agree that property values would plummet. Area Realtors to whom we have spoken concur.
The environmental impact of the oil drilling process directly affects an area that is home to panthers and many other endangered and unique species.
To address these many concerns, a number of county residents have formed a group called Preserve Our Paradise, with the website PreserveOurParadise.org and an equivalent Facebook page.
If oil drilling next to residential Golden Gate Estates is allowed to proceed, unimpeded by local government or the FDEP, the verdant oasis we call home will be destroyed.