Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Letters: So many reasons to forsake I-49 project, so why would we risk this?

 The following Letter to the Editor appeared in the The Advocate on August 11, 2020.


So many reasons to forsake I-49 project, so why would we risk this?

Once again, the Department of Transportation and Development is attempting to move forward with the Lafayette Interstate 49 Connector project. The Connector is unlikely to ever become a reality for the following reasons:

The project lacks public support and has been opposed for over 30 years by hundreds of citizens and the victims who will lose their homes, jobs, businesses, churches and other community assets. This opposition has been well-voiced in public hearings, meetings and lawsuits.

It has an overabundance of prohibitively expensive problems due to its proximity to the railroad, downtown Lafayette and the airport. These issues bring the price to at least $300 million to 400 million per mile, which far exceeds the normal funding for interstate highways.

The path of this highway takes it through the abandoned, highly contaminated Union Pacific rail yard. It has been declared so by the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Environmental Quality and federal courts. Litigation seeks to hold Union Pacific accountable for the cleanup. This suit and the clean-up must be completed before the connector can be built.

Its cost could be as much as $2 billion and could take decades to complete. Louisiana DOTD attorneys declared in the federal citizens’ suit against the project that the proposed pathway for the connector is the only feasible route, which was upheld by the court’s ruling. This creates a Catch-22 whereby more cost-effective routes are not considered.

The footprint of the proposed connector lies above the Chicot aquifer, Lafayette’s water source. Contamination has already been observed in our aquifer. Driving elevated roadway pilings through the rail yard and into our aquifer without a thorough cleanup would endanger our precious water supply.

The 20-year-old Environmental Impact Study required by federal law is significantly outdated, far exceeding the three-year life of an EIS. The attempt to supplement this outdated EIS is a waste of time and money. A new EIS is required because of passage of time, new significant environmental information and major changes in the Record of Decision, all of which apply to this project.

We are outraged that the DOTD continues to spend millions in taxpayer money on a project that is too expensive, destroys community, jobs, homes and businesses, reduces property tax revenue, increases traffic on city streets, and endangers drinking water, air quality and Bayou Vermilion. The public has been wise in opposing this project for the past 30 years.

When confronted with public opposition, engineering obstacles and high cost, other states have revised planned interstate corridors and created urban bypasses. Why not in Lafayette?

HAROLD SCHOEFFLER

chairman, Acadian Group, Sierra Club

Lafayette







Saturday, July 25, 2020

Meetings Announced by DOTD Will Again Suggest Design Revisions

For over two decades LaDOTD has been revising designs for their "I-49 Connector" in Lafayette. Each new design that has been presented has fallen to design flaws, impracticality, legal challenge, and/or extreme public opposition.  Once again, the LaDOTD Lafayette I-49 Connector is returning to make renewed plans for building their urban interstate through the heart of Lafayette. Two online meetings of the LCAG (I believe this is the Lafayette Connector Advisory Group) are planned:
  • Tuesday, July 28, 2020, 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm: An Introduction to Bridge Design and Construction. Focus will be on the Mainline Structural Viaduct Type Alternatives, the Evaluation Criteria and Evaluation Process conducted to date, and other opportunities to improve structural components with the CSS (Context Sensitive Solutions) process
  • Thursday, July 30, 2020, 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm: Working Session utilizing breakout Focus Groups and a summary round table to further discuss structural concepts and alternatives introduced in the Tuesday LCAG Meeting. The breakout Focus Groups will discuss the Mainline Structural Viaduct Types and their detailed characteristics including such things as scale, constructibility, cost, and long-term operations and maintenance; and other CSS Structural Considerations such as abutment walls, piers, retaining walls, and railings.These focus groups will report back the results of their discussion, evaluation,and preferences.  Consensus will be developed on LCAG conclusions/preferences for report out to the Partner Agency and Executive Committee, at future meetings.
The Louisiana Open Meeting Law requires that the public be given a reasonable opportunity to speak at advisory committee meetings. However, as with past LaDOTD sponsored I-49 Connector committee meetings, no public input will be allowed. The I-49 Connector website states:
This is a committee working meeting, but if members of the public would like to attend in a listen-only manner, please email info@lafayetteconnector.com to request the Online Meeting access information.
Although I will have no opportunity to comment, I do plan to view the meeting. As described above, I have emailed my request for this meeting information, and I urge all interested citizens to also make this request and observe the meeting.
CSS Project Map
CSS Map I-49 Lafayette Connector

 

Monday, June 22, 2020

Ozone and the I-49 Connector: Why should we care?

DOTD I-49 Urban Route.
Recent local news articles on KATC and in The Acadiana Advocate  reported an LDEQ warning that on June 19 Lafayette would have high levels of ozone. LDEQ declared an Ozone Action Day for Lafayette. Why should we care about ozone?

First, high ozone levels are a risk to health, particularly among our most vulnerable citizens. Those who work or exercise outdoors are also at risk.  

Second, Lafayette has in the past been close to non-attainment for ozone, while Baton Rouge has been out of compliance. Currently all of Louisiana is considered to be in compliance with the federal standard of 70 parts-per-billion for ozone. Lafayette air pollution has improved, but there are continuing calls to make the ozone standard more protective. Non-attainment matters to Lafayette's future economic growth which could be impacted by restrictions and new requirements placed on any industry wanting to locate here. Beyond that, the most sought after companies looking for a new location are far less likely to choose a city with recognized poor air quality. Bottom line: our current good air quality is a plus for Lafayette to recruit new economic development. 

Finally, what has ozone got to do with the I-49 Connector? If you listen to Louisiana DOTD and their consultants who are writing the I-49 Environmental Impact Statement you might think ozone and air pollution have nothing to do with their plan. But, our biggest source of ozone in Lafayette is from cars. Common sense tells us that the proposed elevated interstate through the heart of our city is going to concentrate heavy traffic on city streets that lead to and from the interstate. Further, much local traffic will avoid using the elevated highway because of its limited points of access and exit. Those cars and trucks will be forced to sit in traffic on city streets. And, if the Connector has tolls, expect even more traffic forced down to city streets. Expect troubling increases in ground level ozone.

LRX Bypass Corridor Options (DOTD)
This doesn't have to happen! The proposed Lafayette Metro eXpressway (LRX) would allow through traffic and hazardous cargo to bypass the central city. For almost two decades we the taxpayers have funded planning for the LRX bypass. It is time to act and choose this alternative. The LRX would draw traffic away from easily congested urban streets and save local tax monies as city street expansions are no longer needed. The LRX would improve rather than worsen ozone pollution in Lafayette. If the I-49 Connector is built, we will be stuck with its induced traffic congestion and resulting bad air in our city for decades. Let's just not go there! 


Friday, March 15, 2019

February 2019 LRX Public Meeting Comments

The comments below were submitted on March 15, 2019. The February public meeting that solicited these comments presented the Tier 1 Environmental Impact Study for the Lafayette western bypass termed the Lafayette Regional Xpressway or simply the LRX. Learn more about the meeting and the LRX by reading the recent Connector Comments meeting announcement. It is available by clicking HERE.

The period for public comments closes on March 18, so you may still have time to submit your statement of support, concerns, or questions. Although the attached comment is quite detailed, short comments simply stating support and/or concerns are of great value and provide evidence of public interest.

The meeting slide show included this information on how to provide written comments after the meeting:
  • Send comments to: HNTB Corporation,10000 Perkins Rowe, Suite 604, Baton Rouge LA 70810,
  • or, Email comments to kbprejean@hntb.com
  • Comments received or postmarked by March 18, 2019 will become a part of the record.

If you have submitted or do submit comments through one of these methods, please consider sharing your comments with us by pasting then in the comments section at the end of this article. However, do be aware that comments on this Connector Comments site are not official, so be sure to submit official comments as described in the bullets above.


__________________________________________________________

Comments of Michael G. Waldon, PhD
Following LRX Public Meeting February 28, 2019


The following comments are my comments submitted in response to the request for public comments at the Public Hearing held in Lafayette on February 28, 2019.
I have divided my comments into the following topic-related sections.

Statement of appreciation
Relationship to other projects and needed model scenarios
Where is the Eastern Corridor?
Arkansas example - phased funding and completion
Flooding
Preferred corridor selection
Public information and participation
Public support
2005 Study Corridor Map


Statement of appreciation

I first sincerely thank the LMEC for holding this hearing and giving the public an opportunity to share our support and concerns. Thanks is also due to the visionary citizens of Lafayette who saw almost two decades ago that the only viable path forward for a north-south interstate connecting I-49 segments was a bypass. At that time, the so-called I-49 Connector, the “Con,” was seen to be effectively dead; killed by fierce public opposition, environmental infeasibility, and legal challenges. And rightfully so.


Relationship to other projects and needed model scenarios

If we cannot call the LRX an alternative to the I-49 Con, then at least allow us to call it a substitute.

Although our Louisiana DOTD continues to waste many tens of millions of federal tax dollars on planning the I-49 Con, it is even less viable today than in the early 2000s when it was effectively abandoned. Today’s advancements in geochemical science provide an even better understanding of the environmental risk of further contamination of the Chicot aquifer, and there is a renewed concern for flooding since the 2016 regional flood disaster. Additionally, the massive negative impact of urban interstates, particularly on poor and minority communities has become even more apparent than it was  decades ago. The Con is today quite simply inviable (i.e. dead). For years the LRX plans were stalled in order to not “distract” the public with the promise of a substitute for the locally opposed Con. Let us delay no longer. The LRX is our most advanced proposed substitute for the failed Con, and I urge our professional, political, and civic leaders to now give its development their enthusiastic support. Lafayette does urgently need the LRX project. Although completion of the LRX may be far in the future, every distraction coming from the Con, and every other delay simply moves LRX completion further into that future.

If ever built, the I-49 Con is almost certain to be partially toll funded (https://connectorcomments.blogspot.com/2016/06/the-specter-of-tolls-on-i-49-connector.html). Former Secretary of Transportation Dr. Kam Movassaghi was quoted (The Independent, April 14, 2009) saying that tolls must be considered for funding I-49 construction. An expert speaking to a meeting sponsored by our Chamber of Commerce affiliate One Acadiana (The Advocate, October 22, 2015) suggested that a toll of $0.19 per mile might be used to fund I-49 completion, and an Advocate article (September 22, 2014) reported that a state funded feasibility study looked at $0.18 per mile for I-49 funding. Former State Senator and then I-49 South Coalition Director, Mike Michot, was quoted in that same article saying about I-49 South "It seems unlikely a project of that magnitude will be built without the help of toll dollars."

The infeasibility of building the I-49 Con project is highly relevant in planning for the LRX, as is the prospect of the Con also having tolls. Additional model scenarios need to be considered for LRX planning. First, the scenario that the I-49 Con will never be constructed needs to be considered as a scenario because this is in fact most likely. Second, the scenario that the I-49 Con is built but has tolls must be considered. Adding tolls to the I-49 Con in modeling will increase traffic flow and toll revenue of the LRX. Failure to include these added scenarios related to the future I-49 Con seriously impairs planning for LRX traffic and toll revenue. Failure to consider these scenarios could negatively impact Louisiana's financial negotiations in dealing with the private PPP project partner for the LRX. 

It seems relevant to mention here that despite the tens of millions of dollars already spent on I-49 Con planning, to-date the DOTD has refused to include an I-49  toll scenario, or to incorporate the LRX in any I-49 Con traffic models. To members of the public this appears to be a blatant attempt to inflate traffic projection to thus justify the Con project. This concern is relevant here because I hope that such manipulation of planning results is not a part of the LRX project. A refusal to run the added scenarios listed here would lead to a similar but opposite appearance. It would lead the public to think that the LMEC and DOTD are purposefully failing to consider scenarios in order to “put their finger on the scale” giving preference to the Con relative to the LRX substitute.

In summary of my concerns stated in this section, I am asking that two LRX planning scenarios (model runs) be added for projection of traffic and toll revenue. First, projections are needed for the most likely future in which the I-49 Con project is abandoned and never built. Second, The scenario that the I-49 Con is constructed as a toll funded project is additionally required. Planning for the LRX that does not consider these possible futures would have little credibility in the eyes of the public. 

Where is the Eastern Corridor?

Earlier LMEC documents map an eastern corridor extending from I-49 north of Carencro to I-10 west of Breaux Bridge. Documents include “TECHNICAL MEMORANDUM 4: ENVIRONMENTAL RECONNAISSANCE” dated February 2005, “LAFAYETTE METROPOLITAN EXPRESSWAY FEASIBILITY STUDY EXECUTIVE SUMMARY IMPLEMENTATION PLAN”  dated June 2005. Figure 4-1, “Study Corridor Map,” from the 2005 Technical Memorandum 4 is appended to the end of these comments for the reader’s convenience. I have seen no published planning or engineering study, or any rationale for dropping the eastern segment. Was a decision made to drop this option? Does any documentation of the decision exist and was the public invited to comment on the decision?

For many years local citizens have supported an eastern route bypassing Lafayette following the high ground of the Teche Ridge. Here are a few of the links demonstrating this long-term support information on this proposed roadway:
     Kelly Roberts Caldwell spokesperson comments for Lafayette citizen groups in the I-49 Connector FEIS, Volume II, page 299  dated April 30, 2001 https://connectorcomments.blogspot.com/2017/04/public-comment-from-16-years-ago.html
     Connector Comments blog, May 27, 2016, “The I-49 Lafayette Bypass Option: Teche Ridge” https://connectorcomments.blogspot.com/2016/05/the-i-49-lafayette-bypass-option-teche.html
     I-49 Teche Ridge Bypass Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/I-49-Teche-Ridge-Bypass-191859984503529/
     Harold Schoeffler’s presentation to the St. Martin Parish Council on February 16, 2016 https://soundcloud.com/mike-waldon-906517104/hschoeffler-stmartinparish-2016-02-16

Some have suggested that such a roadway might begin as a two lane expressway and expand where needed to four lanes. Combined tith the LRX, the Teche Ridge eastern bypass would provide Lafayette with a full loop. This would improve traffic, efficiency of travel, and attract desirable economic development to communities in both Lafayette and St. Martin Parishes.

This comment is directly relevant to the LRX plan because it appears that the proposed eastern corridor was aligned to connect with the eastern Teche Ridge bypass which has been so long supported by citizens here. While I understand that the LMEC desires, as far as possible, to keep roadway development within Lafayette Parish, it seems arbitrary and wasteful to drop the eastern corridor from all consideration. I ask that future planning include this eastern corridor as a potential future extension. 

Arkansas example - phased funding and completion

The Bella Vista Bypass (Arkansas Hwy 549) is being constructed in Arkansas as a part of their I-49 completion. I believe this is a good example of a state (Arkansas) listening to public concerns and developing a bypass rather than running the interstate through the heart of a community. The Bella Vista bypass has been designed and is being and constructed by ARDOT. It is being constructed one segment at a time as funding becomes available. While in Lafayette we are mired in I-49 planning that will likely never lead construction, Arkansas is building a highway. The Bella Vista Bypass is initially being constructed as a two-lane expressway which will be expanded to four lanes as funding permits. Arkansas has been able to design a viable project which will likely be completed long before we even begin construction. I urge the LMEC and Louisiana DOTD to consider using a similar incremental approach for the LRX. You can learn more about the Bella Vista Bypass from the Wikipedia article titled “Arkansas Highway 549,” by Googling news articles, and by downloading ARDOT project documents.

Flooding

In an urban setting such as the I-49 Con, finding hundreds of acres outside the flood zone for runoff retention is at-best expensive and at-worst impossible. However, in the rural setting of the LRX this is less of a problem and may actually be viewed as a project benefit. I urge the LMEC to make flood impacts from the LRX project an integrated part of planning. In other projects the Louisiana DOTD has been accused of failing to adequately consider flood impacts of their projects. My understanding is that, as a state agency, DOTD is not required to follow local ordinances requiring runoff retention or other flood impact analyses or mitigations. In spite of this I ask that the LMEC pledge to integrate runoff management planning into every level of LRX design including the plan development for roadway routing. In the rural setting of much of the LRX, retention ponds can actually be an aesthetic feature while possibly providing needed fill for roadway elevation. Landowners may also welcome retention ponds as neighboring features which improve property values and provide alternative drainage for development.  

Preferred corridor selection

I agree with the selection of the preferred corridor identified in the meeting handout. Not only does this selection best meet the criteria in the selection matrix, It is the alternative which may most quickly be constructed.

Public information and participation

At the public hearing I voiced my concern that the LRX web site (www.lrxpressway.com), was not being maintained, and information on the site appeared to be years out-of-date. I also noted that information from the 2017 public hearing had not been posted to the site as had been promised to me at that meeting. Following the 2017 meeting, I did try on multiple occasions to contact anyone from the LMEC about this, but was unable to do so using the outdated information then available on the web site. If I had expended more effort I could have likely made contact, but such a level of effort should not be required for a member of the public to simply get information.

I have additionally tried to find the schedule for the quarterly LMEC meetings, meeting agendas, and meeting minutes. As a public body in Louisiana, there are requirements that these be available on the web site. However, such information was not on the LRX web site. Following the February public meeting, I was told that some of this information is actually on the LEDA web site. However, I have not found this information on either the LEDA web site or the LRX site. The LRX website has an LMEC meeting page which is reached from a link on the “about LMEC” page:  www.lrxpressway.com/lmec-meetings/
However this page refers to the schedule of the 2011 meetings, and even that information is incomplete.

Please post on the LRX website all documents required by law and publish timely announcements of the quarterly LMEC meetings. At a minimum LMEC must meet the requirements of the Louisiana open meeting law, but I hope LMEC will exceed these requirements by actively seeking public involvement.

Since the February 2019 meeting, I do see that LRX public meeting materials have been added to the LRX web site for 2019, and prior public meetings including the 2017 public meeting. These posted documents have been useful and I thank the LMEC for providing them. However, I am unable to locate agendas, calendars, or minutes for the legally required quarterly meetings of the LMEC. I request that these either be provided on the LRX site, or that a link be placed on the LRX web site to wherever these documents are archived. I also ask that LMEC meeting announcements be prominently posted on the LRX website along with the agendas for upcoming meetings so that the public and media may attend.

Public support

There was a clear demonstration of the public’s interest in the LRX project shown by the standing-room only crowd at the February public hearing. Although I did hear mild concern from a few potentially impacted property owners, I did not hear a single person comment that they were opposed to this project. This stands in stark contrast to the near unanimous public opposition concerning the I-49 Con voiced at every public meeting held over more than two decades by DOTD and others. The public is not timid in voicing opposition, and I felt that the lack of any expression of opposition toward the LRX, as well as the many positive voices of strong support, together give an indication that the LRX project can be successful. The LRX can be a valuable addition to our region’s transportation infrastructure. I support its development. Thank you again for this opportunity to comment. 


2005 Study Corridor Map



February 2005 “Study Corridor Map” from Figure 4-1 in the report “Lafayette Metropolitan Expressway, Technical Memorandum 4, Environmental Reconnaissance.” The black circle was added to the figure to indicate the segment termed the eastern corridor in these comments.




Michael G. Waldon, PhD
Resident of Lafayette Parish, Louisiana

March 15, 2019

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Louisiana wants your opinion on a Lafayette Interstate 49 bypass, the LRX

Thursday, February 28, 2019, at the Lafayette Parish South Regional Library, the State of Louisiana will host a public hearing on their plans to build a western bypass around the City of Lafayette. The meeting will continue from 5:30 to until 7:30 pm.
Meeting Agenda:
  • 5:30-6:00 pm -View exhibits and speak with the project team
  • 6:00-6:15 pm - formal presentation
  • 6:45-7:30 - public invited to provide comments in a moderated and recorded forum
The host agency for the meeting is the Lafayette Metropolitan Expressway Commission or LMEC. Beginning almost twenty years ago, efforts and support of Lafayette civic leaders led to the creation of the LMEC by our Louisiana Legislature in 2003. The LMEC provides oversight for construction planning and financial planning for a proposed Lafayette limited access interstate bypass. They call their proposed bypass the LRX or Lafayette Regional Xpressway.
After years of work, plans have progressed, and the LMEC is seeking your comments on their Tier 1 Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) which evaluates potential alternative highway corridors. The plan is for the LRX to be partially funded by tolls as part of a public-private partnership (PPP). As such, this project might be funded and built long before the costly I-49 connector (I-49 Con) project moves a shovel of dirt.  
The state will not say that the LRX is an alternative to the widely-opposed and costly I-49 Connector. I assume this is necessary to avoid loosing federal planning funds. However, the choice is clear - the LRX eliminates the reasons for building the I-49 Connector. If it is not an alternative then let's call it a substitute. If well managed and designed, the LRX substitute is financially a better deal for taxpayers. The LRX should have little or no flood impact, unlike the I-49 Con it will not cross a massive abandoned toxic site or impact our drinking water, and it will reduce traffic congestion in the city while giving rural residents new travel options. 
You can learn more about the LRX plan through the LMEC website http://www.lrxpressway.com/Their meeting announcement is available by clicking HERE.
DevelopingLafayette.com published an excellent article titled "Lafayette Metro Expressway “Lafayette Loop” Planning Continues.". And Claire Taylor published an article in The Advocate titled "Public can weigh in on Lafayette toll loop during Feb. 28 meeting." Click on the titles to read these articles.
Your comments to the LMEC and state DOTD will be accepted at the meeting. If you are unable to attend, or just want to give additional comments, you can submit your comments via their Web site (www.lrxpressway.com), or by U.S. mail to LRX Project Team, HNTB Corporation, 10000 Perkins Rowe, Ste. 640, Baton Rouge, LA 70810. Any written comments received by or postmarked on or before March 11, 2019 or 45 days following publication of the Notice of Availability in the Federal Register, whichever is later, will become a part of the record.
After the February 28 meeting I will publish an article here in Connector Comments detailing new LRX developments and comments I hear from other participants. 
I urge you to support the LRX and help save our city and parish from the disaster that is the I-49 Con.  
Alternative LRX corridor map from 2017 public meeting.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The I-49 Boondoggles

What is a BOONDOGGLE? Wikipedia tells us it refers to
projects involving large numbers of people and usually heavy expenditure, where at some point, the key operators, having realized that the project will never work, are still reluctant to bring this to the attention of their superiors.  
Public opposition to routing I-49 through the heart of our city goes back at least to 1992, and for years now, Lafayette residents have recognized that the government project now being called the Lafayette I-49 Connector (we call it the I-49 Con) is a prime example of a wasteful government boondoggle (for an example of public comment read "Why the I-49 connector won't work" published May 27, 2016 in the Daily Advertiser). The public has been assured many times that if there is significant public opposition to the project it will never be built. Yet, the I-49 Con continues spending tens of millions of tax dollars on studies and design that will never be used for a footprint through the heart of the Lafayette.

Sarah Palin holding Nowhere Alaska t-shirt
Sarah Palin holding a T-shirt related to the Gravina Island Bridge.
Credit: Bob Weinstein via Wikimedia
Regardless of how wasteful the project, politicians from both sides of the aisle often find it hard to oppose tax funded boondoggles. Perhaps this is because of the inevitable cycling back of a percentage of the money into campaign contributions. Even some of the most conservative politicians seem unable to pass up wasteful government boondoggle projects. Do you recall the support of Sarah Palin for federal funding of the Gravina Island Bridge commonly referred to as the iconic "Bridge to Nowhere?"


The national Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG) published their 2018 list of US interstate highway boondoggle projects. If built as proposed, these boondoggles would waste tens of billions of our federal transportation tax dollars. And, even if these boondoggles are never built, billions will be spent on their planning and design before public pressure and simple rationality end their useless authorizations.

Although our own local boondoggle, the I-49 Con, did not make the USPIRG list this year, its sister project in Shreveport, the Shreveport I-49 Inner City Connection did make 2018's national list of worst boondoggles. Better luck next year to our own I-49 Con! If USPIRG accepts nominations in 2019 the I-49 Con will have my vote.

It is important that our political representatives hear from their voters about stopping these federal transportation boondoggles. If we don't speak up the only voices our leaders hear come from paid lobbyists representing the corporations and contractors who are hoping to continue getting design and construction contracts.

We do know that at least some of our leaders are hearing us. On October 17, 2018, One Acadiana hosted a 3rd Congressional District Candidate Forum. All seven remaining congressional candidates running in the November 6 general election participated in the forum:


Several of the candidates spoke to the forum in general terms about our need for improved infrastructure and the need to eliminate wasteful federal spending. However, two candidates spoke directly about problems with routing I-49 through the center of Lafayette. Congressman Clay Higgins noted that routing the interstate footprint through the central city would displace or impact a large number of private property owners. He concluded that an actual footprint for the project still needs to be selected. Candidate Mimi Methvin cited further problems with the central city route including its planned passage through the highly contaminated former railyard site. Furthermore, she noted that today urban experts and planners recognize urban blight in many US cities has been caused by the past construction of inner-city interstates.

Do you agree that the Lafayette I-49 Con is one more federal boondoggle currently wasting many tens of millions of tax dollars on design of a route through the heart of our city? Do you agree that, as now planned, the I-49 Con should never and likely will never be built?

If your answer is yes, I urge you to contact your chosen 3rd district candidate. Tell him/her of your opposition to the currently proposed central I-49 route. Ask your candidate to support planning for one of the much less costly and less damaging alternatives bypassing Lafayette to the east along the Teche Ridge or west following the plan for the Lafayette Regional eXpressway (LRX). In addition to saving federal and state taxes, either alternative also involves much lower cost to our local governments, reduces risks to property and health, and eliminates most impacts to flooding and traffic congestion inherent in the I-49 Con planned route through the heart our city.

Mike Waldon, PhD
October 23, 2018 

Thursday, June 7, 2018

What percent of known railyard contaminants are monitored by LUS in our well water?

In their letter delivered in March 22, 2017 to our City/Parish Council and Mayor/President , the Acadian Group of the Sierra Club and WaterMark Alliance made ten recommendations describing actions which are needed to protect the public's health and property. To date, our city "leaders" have not even shown the courtesy of acknowledging receipt of that letter, and have given no public indication that they are considering any of the recommended actions to protect their constituencies.

In that letter, recommended action #3 was to (emphasis added):
"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)."
Why was increased water well monitoring by LUS recommended? Consider these facts that undergird the rationale for improving LUS's water well monitoring and highlight the urgency :



You might have assumed that our LUS well water is already being frequently tested for all contaminants that reasonably might get into our drinking water. You would be wrong in that assumption! Currently, LUS monitors and reports only a generic list of contaminants at a frequency of once every three years in each of our municipal drinking water wells.

To estimate just what fraction of known organic contaminants from nearby contaminated sites are monitored and reported by LUS, I searched through the supporting exhibits filed in court by the complainants in their lawsuit against the Union Pacific railroad.

From the lawsuit exhibits, I compiled a list of all named organic contaminants that were detected and documented in samples from the railyard site (Tables 1-2). That list of railyard contaminants is based on only a few samples and is quite unlikely to include all of the organic contaminants that will eventually be discovered at the railyard site. However, the list does give us a basis to estimate what fraction of railyard contaminants are monitored from our drinking water wells. If you have an interest in seeing a separate list of specific chemical names, you can view the list of contaminants by clicking here.

Results -  In the railyard lawsuit exhibits, a total of 49 organic contaminants were reported as being detected.  Of these, only 15 (31%) are currently monitored and reported by LUS (Figure 1, and Tables 1-2).
Figure 1.  Only 15 of the 49 organic contaminants detected at the abandoned railyard are monitored and reported water from the LUS drinking water wells.


So, returning to the question in the title: "What percent of known railyard contaminants are monitored by LUS in our well water?" The answer: About 31%, less than one third of known contaminants are monitored in our drinking water wells and publicly reported by LUS!

Furthermore, even for the 15 monitored contaminants, each well is sampled at the astonishingly low frequency once every three years. This fact led to the other requested action in the citizens' letter - to increase frequency of sampling. Implementing increased monitoring frequency is particularly important for the LUS water wells which already have had a detection of a surface contaminant. As with the other citizen recommendations, there is no indication that LUS and our city's "leaders" have ever considered this recommended action.

And, one last word - Note that in Lafayette LUS has reported detection of contamination that must have originated from near the ground surface, but, to the author's knowledge LUS has never detected any organic contaminants in untreated Lafayette well water that exceeds EPA maximum contaminant limits for protection of human health (MCLs). The concern being raised here and in the recommendation letter is that the observation of any surface contaminants in our well water is evidence of contaminant breakthrough. That is, we are seeing the beginning of surface contamination reaching our water supply.

The increased monitoring requested in recommendation #3 is just one of the actions needed to better safeguard our citizens and ratepayers. LUS management under the guidance of our local political leadership have the constitutional duty to safeguard public health, and to ensure protection of LUS ratepayers by ensuring that the parties responsible for the contamination pay all costs of additional monitoring, remediation, and any/all added costs of treatment.
____________________________


Table 1. This table lists the 15 contaminants known to be present at the abandoned railyard and monitored/reported by LUS in untreated well water samples taken once every 3 years. Of these monitored contaminants only 1,4-Dichlorobenzene has to-date been detected in LUS well water.

CAS No. Contaminant
100-41-4 Ethyl Benzene
100-42-5 Styrene
106-46-7 1,4-Dichlorobenzene
107-06-2 1,2-Dichloroethane
108-88-3 Toluene
127-18-4 Tetrachloroethene
156-60-5 Trans-1,2-Dichloroethene
50-32-8 Benzo(a)pyrene
71-43-2 Benzene
71-55-6 1,1,1-Trichloroethane
75-09-2 Methylene Chloride
79-01-6 Trichloroethene
95-50-1 1,2-Dichlorobenzene
74-95-3 Dibromomethane
N/A M, P-Xylenes


Table 2.  This table lists the 34 contaminants known to be present at the abandoned railyard and not monitored/reported by LUS in untreated well water samples taken once every 3 years.

CAS No. Contaminant
103-65-1 n-Propylbenzene
104-51-8 n-Butylbezene
108-67-8 1,3,5-Trimethyl-Benzene
120-12-7 Anthracene
129-00-0 Pyrene
193-39-5 Indeno(1,2,3-cd)pyrene
205-99-2 Benzo(b)fluoranthene
206-44-0 Fluoranthene
207-08-9 Benzo(k)Fluoranthene
208-96-8 Acenaphthylene
218-01-9 Chrysene
541-73-1 1,3-Dlchlorobenzene
56-55-3 Benzo(a)anthracene
594-20-7 2,2-Dichloropropane
67-64-1 Acetone
67-66-3 Chloroform
74-97-5 Bromochloromethane
75-15-0 Carbon disulfide
75-34-3 1,1-Dichloroethane
79-69-4 Trichlorofluoromethane
83-32-9 Acenaphthene
85-01-8 Phenanthrene
86-73-7 Fluorene
91-105-134 Alkyl benzene
95-47-6 0-Xylene
95-49-8 2-Chlorotoluene
95-63-6 1,2,4-Trimethylbenzene
95-63-6 1,2,4-Trimethylbenzene
98-82-8 Isopropytbenzene (Cumene)
540-59-0 1,2-Dichloroethene
91-57-6 2-Methylnaphthalene
N/A CIS-1,2-Dichloroethane
N/A dimethylnaphthalene
135-98-8 Sec-Butylbenzene