Lawsuit filed over I-49 Lafayette connector

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A lawsuit was filed this morning over environmental concerns on property where the proposed Interstate 49 Lafayette connector will be built.

The lawsuit was filed by Lafayette attorney William Goodell in 15th Judicial District Court in Lafayette against Union Pacific Railroad on behalf of the Salvation Army and other landowners adjacent to the former rail yard in downtown Lafayette.

The proposed 5.5-mile interstate connection through Lafayette cuts across current and former railroad property and above the Chicot Aquifer, source of the city’s drinking water.

Soil and shallow groundwater test results on file with the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality confirm the presence of “a toxic stew of ‘Superfund’ hazardous substances perilously perched atop the Chicot Aquifer,” yet records show the DEQ has never ordered cleanup of the site or testing of the Chicot Aquifer, Goodell wrote in a news release.

“The documented contamination at the site constitutes an illegal, imminent, and substantial endangerment to the health and safety of plaintiffs and the entire Lafayette community,” he added.

Former DEQ Secretary Paul Templet, relying on expert testimony and data from two prior lawsuits, wrote: “Facility soil and groundwater conditions constitute an imminent and substantial endangerment to human health and the environment.”

Benzene, a known cancer-causing agent, and lead were found in groundwater at the site, well above risk evaluation/correction action program (RECAP) standards, Templet wrote.

Other substances found at high levels in the groundwater were chlorinated hydrocarbons, including tetrachoroethane and acetone, he said.

The lawsuit calls for a comprehensive environmental assessment of the entire 40-acre former rail yard so that a cleanup plan can be designed to eliminate the threat to the aquifer and prevent contamination from migrating, Goodell wrote.

He has scheduled a press conference for 2 p.m. today.

Check back with KLFY for updates throughout the day on this developing story.

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Information from: The Daily Advertiser

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