Attorney wants city to conduct testing on water system after contaminants found; LUS says water safe

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LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) – A press conference was held Wednesday about a lawsuit concerning possible groundwater contamination in Lafayette.

It stems from chemical leaks at a Union Pacific Rail yard more than 20 years ago.

The lawsuit was filed against Union Pacific Railroad, on behalf of the Salvation Army in 2016.

Environmental lawyer Bill Goodell says the city’s water could be threatened with contamination.

That’s after he and a former D.E.Q. Secretary reviewed environmental tests done in the rail yard, before filing his Salvation Army v. Union Pacific case back in 2016.

“Before we filed the suit, we found a lot of information, we found significant information of contamination in place,” said Goodell, with Goodell Law Firm.

In 1994, during testing of the former Union Pacific Maintenance Rail yard in Lafayette, Goodel says the results showed contaminents leaked from the facility into the Chicot Aquifer. Those contaminents he says included benzene which is toxic.

“And nothing has been done to address the benzene at that location, or the potential for seapage into the Chicot, that may have occurred, in other areas of the rail yard,” said Goodel.

He states that the rail yard contamination was the subject of a lawsuit filed in federal court in 2007.

In the case involving Conco and Union Pacific, Conco settled, but Goodel says no cleanup was done in response to the lawsuit.

Terry Huval, Director of Lafayette Utilities System and L.U.S. Fiber, says the water is perfectly safe to drink. 

“We’re positive that we have none of these chemicals, that was reported by this attorney.”

He says L.U.S. continuously tests the water, and can guarantee that not only is it safe to drink, but free of toxic chemicals.

“We check the water everyday, every ounce that comes out of our plant. We have no records of any benzene being in the water ever,” said Huval.

Goodel says that until there is a comprehensive assessment of the entire rail yard and all of the chemicals found there, he believes there is no way of knowing if the water is affected.

Huval states that if the water in the city was ever compromised or contaminated, the public would be notified immediately. 

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