Sunday, May 22, 2016

Moon Suits in Downtown Lafayette

Have DOTD or LCG-ECI (aka TIGER Grant) folks, considered what we would see downtown if they actually do construct underpasses or depressed roadway through the huge toxic rail yard? From their public statements, it does not appear that they have given any thought to the subject. 

With high levels of lead, arsenic, asbestos, oil, and TCE, workers will need whole body cover (hazmat suits often called "moon suits") and respirators. After all, this site has been recognized in Federal Court to be a highly toxic site. Additionally, any equipment used at the site will need to be decontaminated, and even the equipment wash water will have to be collected and disposed of as hazardous waste. Any exposure or excavation of toxic soil will also require a dust control plan, volatiles control plan, air monitoring, and collection and treatment of all stormwater and seepage accumulating or running off the site.  Water treatment will likely need to meet drinking water standards prior to discharge.

Of course, citizens who live and work nearby may just have to hope the dust control and volatiles control is working. Citizens going for lunch at Dwyer's or for coffee at Reve will not be issued government hazmat suits and respirators - we'll just be on our own.

So - what would be the alternative to DOTD excavating the site? I believe that such sites are usually left mostly undisturbed. Any especially contaminated locations within the site might be excavated, but in order to protect local people and property, most of the site would be remediated by in-situ methods like "pump and treat." In this method of remediation, wells are drilled into the contaminated layer, water is continually pumped from these wells, and the water is treated and discharged. This approach prevents further spreading of the waste, while avoiding risk of further public exposure. Furthermore, in this approach, no disturbance of the site by excavation, soil boring, pile driving, or similar activity would be allowed for decades or longer as the toxics are slowly carried to the treatment wells. This alternative has environmental, public health, and economic advantages, but is incompatible with elevated roadway, overpass bridge, or underpass construction in near future years. 

Construction site dust can be difficult to control.