Landowners say Exxon is responsible for gator infestation

Landowners say Exxon is responsible for gator infestation
Landowners want the gators gone
Landowners want the gators gone
Christmas' property in Centreville, MS
Christmas' property in Centreville, MS
Entrance to former Exxon refinery waste disposal site in Centreville, MS
Entrance to former Exxon refinery waste disposal site in Centreville, MS

CENTREVILLE, MS (WAFB) - Some residents in Centreville, Mississippi claim alligators are taking over their properties. They believe their neighbor, ExxonMobil, is raising reptiles and letting them run wild.

Tom Christmas, his wife and their neighbors claim alligators are gnawing away at property and threatening their livestock and pets.

In December 2003, the Christmas' bought a 35-acre plot of land with hopes of building a home in Centreville. Christmas said when they started clearing the land, alligators started creeping onto his property.

"I started noticing alligators and couldn't figure out where they were coming from," Christmas said.

The property includes two large ponds and is home to horses, cattle and dogs.

Tom admitted he knew there were alligators in the area, but he said he didn't know the property next door, which is owned and maintained by ExxonMobil, was infested with them until one of his dogs ventured over. He said when he went to go fetch his pet, an ExxonMobil employee stopped him.

"We've got to get him quick he mentioned. He said they got alligators here and I started seeing signs on the property by the ponds," Christmas said.

The signs on the former refinery waste disposal site read "No fishing; caution snakes and alligators in the area."

9News didn't see any the day we visited, but neighbors agree the reptiles are lurking I in the overgrown shrubs behind the fence.

Louis Franklin lives next door.

"I see them quite often. Some is like five feet. We have seen some like 14 feet long," Franklin said.

"I'm telling you they steady coming. I see an eight foot today, a seven foot the next day. They going and coming," Christmas said.

According to court documents, Exxon put up a reinforcement fence back to keep the alligators on its property. But residents said it's not working.

"You can go to the back part of my land and you can see where they dug at. They dig," Franklin said.

In 2008, the Christmas' filed suit against ExxonMobil alleging their property had been contaminated with runoff from the land farm and that the Exxon property was infested with alligators.

A Mississippi trial court ruled that while it is clear there are "many, many alligators" on the property, there is no evidence the gators are trespassing. The Christmas' appealed, but in 2011 the appellate court kicked the suit back to the trial court.

The Christmas' and their neighbors just want the gators gone.

"It's dangerous. I used to sit outside a long time ago and lay on my picnic table and go to sleep or whatever. Now you can't do it," Franklin said.

"I don't feel comfortable with the alligators out here, bringing my grand kids or any family members to fish or enjoy the pond," Christmas said.

"I'm hoping someone will come capture them or give us some type of relief," Vera McCray said.

ExxonMobil issued the following statement, "Following the requirements of Mississippi procedure, ExxonMobil has filed a motion for rehearing and awaits the Court's decision. Whether ExxonMobil appeals to the supreme court depends on the outcome of the motion for rehearing."

Copyright 2013 WAFB. All rights reserved.