Environmental investigator urges Jones County to issue public nuisance against oil and gas co.

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - A lawsuit between a Jones County family and Petro Harvester Oil and Gas Company is being investigated.

Chief Environmental Investigator Bob Bowcock is heading the investigation.

"The local officials actually have a lot more flexibility to declare a local public nuisances," Bowcock said. 

Bowcock said public nuisance declaration would help short circuit the process of getting the Department of Environmental Quality and the Mississippi Oil and Gas Board to extensively test for toxic chemicals.

Laurel Mayor Johnny Magee said he is still thinking about how to go about the situation.

"When I come out and look at these things, and I've conducted over 5,000 environmental investigations around the country, I look at the setting. I look at the cleanliness of the property," Bowcock said.

Bowcock said, "This site was filthy. There were petroleum products spilled all over the ground, the unlined pits, the abandoned 55 gallon drums. You can only imagine what they're doing behind the scenes and behind the fences and underground."

The plaintiffs' land is in proximity to Petro Harvester.

Bowcock said a major concern is possible pollution in county water.

"They [chemicals] find their way into shallow, private groundwater wells. They're the local, municipal groundwater wells that actually produce water for the city," Bowcock said. 

The Mississippi Oil and Gas Board ran tests on Petro property for levels of radioactivity and said they did not find anything alarming.