How to preserve Lafayette’s drinking water

March 22, 2017 02:40 PM

Local environmentalists have sent a letter to local leaders this week describing how to preserve Lafayette’s drinking water

BY WYNCE NOLLEY

The Acadian Group of the Sierra Club and the WaterMark Alliance have sent a letter to Lafayette Consolidated Government leaders that recommends actions that they say should be taken to remedy the recently discovered contamination of the Chicot Aquifer near the Lafayette North Water Treatment Plant.

The letter was sent to Mayor-President Joel Robideaux, LUS Director Terry Huval, LUS Water and Wastewater Operations Manager Craig Gautreaux and all nine Lafayette City-Parish Council members, according to a press release issued jointly by the organizations.

The letter, which is dated March 22, lists 10 recommendations that the organizations want to see their local leaders pursue, including:

  • Plan and execute a study of surface contamination within the wellhead protection area of local wells. Include sampling for all contaminants that have been monitored in LUS well water, and for contaminants found at other US rail sites, which are either undergoing or have been remediated.
  • Where appropriate, partner with other state and federal agencies.
  • Intensify sampling of well water by increasing the frequency of sampling and adding contaminants for analysis to include all known or suspected contaminants present on the surface or in the surficial aquifer (groundwater just below the surface).
  • Make all past and current well monitoring and sampling data easily available for public review and analysis.
  • Begin contingency planning for shutting down all wells in the vicinity of the North Treatment Plant. Abandoning some or all of these wells may be necessitated in the future to allow aquifer remediation through recovery well operation or other groundwater cleaning technology.
  • Identify responsible parties and methods to recover ratepayer and taxpayer costs.
  • The abandoned railyard site is a public hazard and should be posted as such. It is known to be contaminated with arsenic, asbestos, lead, and many other contaminants that endanger public health from dust and direct contact.
  • Public access and parking of any vehicles on the abandoned railyard site should be immediately prohibited.
  • Determine new protection measures to be fully integrated into policy.
  • Ordinances based on LDEQ drinking water protection sample ordinances should be drafted and adopted.

Evidence of contamination appearing in LUS drinking water wells was presented in January at a Y49 meeting organized by the Sierra Club.

The measured concentrations are below EPA Designated Contaminant Levels and are measured before treatment. However, contaminants reaching local water wells “present a warning to the public and our civic leaders that action is needed,” says Harold Schoeffler, chair of the Sierra Club Acadian Group, in the release.

According to the local blog Lafayette Connector Comments, which seeks to collect, archive and make available public comments on the I-49 Lafayette Connector project, a summary of the post titled “More Evidence of Chicot Aquifer Contamination: USGS Monitoring,” says:

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) established a monitoring well at the Lafayette North Water Treatment Plant in 2001. This well was drilled to a depth to sample the top of the Chicot Aquifer. The water plant and monitoring well are located near known surface contamination. Data collected from this well since 2001 demonstrate that in spite of the existence of a clay confining layer above the Chicot Aquifer, contaminants flowed down into the aquifer, which is the sole source for drinking water in Lafayette Parish. These findings are consistent with other evidence, and support the recommendation that action is urgently needed to protect the Chicot Aquifer.

Attention has been focused on the abandoned railyard in Downtown Lafayette since DOTD has revived their plan to construct I-49 over the railyard site, which is known to be contaminated with toxic substances including some of those being monitored in nearby LUS wells.

“Both property and public health require protection,” says Schoeffler in the release, adding that he hopes to see a response to these recommendations at future meetings of the council and utility board.

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