Sierra Club: contamination in LUS water supply Latest Sierra Club meeting reveals chemical contamination in several LUS water wells

by Wynce Nolley

The Sierra Club held its Y-49 public meeting Thursday night at the Lafayette Main Library to discuss contamination the environmental groups says has been detected in several LUS water wells.

Attorney William Goodell and former hydrologist Dr. Michael Waldon present their findings at Thursday's Y-49 meeting.
Photo by Wynce Nolley

The Sierra Club held its fourth Y-49 public meeting Thursday night at the Lafayette Main Library Downtown concerning contamination it says has been detected in several Lafayette Utilities Systems water wells.

Previous Y-49 meetings have stated that contamination has been found in the soil and groundwater along the proposed I-49 Corridor, which threatens the region’s primary source of drinking water, the Chicot Aquifer.

Local environmental attorney William “Bill” Goodell provided more findings from the lawsuit he filed last February on behalf of two Lafayette property owners against Union Pacific Railroad Company.

“Over the course of my investigations, I’ve determined that from the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals database this p-Dichlorobenzene (DCB) has been detected in the groundwater from the LUS Water Supply Wells since 2008,” says Goodell, who recently received a trove of documents from a public records request he filed with LUS as part of his lawsuit.

According to Goodell, the levels in 2012 show that three of the supply wells closest to where the rail yard is located got hits, and some of them showed up again in 2015.

“In 2008, you get a hit of DCB in (LUS) Water Well 22, which is actually sortheast of the northernmost part of the railyard,” he says. “But then, a couple of years later in 2012, you get all of these hits showing up and then you get a couple of more hits three years later. So, that means that this contaminant, DCB, is getting sucked into Lafayette’s drinking water supply system.”

The Environmental Protection Agency has identified DCB as a Group C possible carcinogen.

A map of LUS water wells the Sierra Club says are contaminated
Courtesy of Dr. Michael Waldon

Dr. Mike Waldon, a retired hydrologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, also gave a presentation on the Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) of the Lafayette I-49 Connector, which identifies Recognized Environmental Conditions (REC) at or near the property.

According to Waldon, while a draft of the study was completed last February, repeated requests to present it to the public for comments have been ignored. The study also failed to discover some significant available data including LUS well monitoring.

The Phase I Report concluded that after 195 property parcels were reviewed, 24 presented a REC within the project right of way in connection with the I-49 Corridor project. The 24 RECs identified included the former Union Pacific, Georgia Pacific and Conoco railyards.

According to Waldon’s report, if a site is considered contaminated, a Phase II ESA may be conducted, which the Sierra Club strongly recommends.

Check out AOC's coverage of the meeting below.