I-10 BRIDGE PROJECT: ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT PROCESS BEGINS

By Theresa Schmidt, KPLC

Will they build a new I-10 bridge over the Calcasieu River? Or does underground chemical contamination make it too risky to replace the bridge?   Those are questions the state will ponder to write an environmental impact statement to guide the future. 

For years the state has been talking about a new, safer bridge to ease congestion.  One of the obstacles has been underlying chemical contamination and that's one of the issues  environmentalist mike Tritico brought to this meeting at the Lake Charles Civic Center.

"After thousands of pages have been blacked out, redacted, I finally got nine pages that confirmed what I suspected, which is that the edc plume that came from the big spill, that happened or at least was discovered in '94, that plume has gone beneath the Calcasieu River I-10 bridge, said Tritico.

Tritico is concerned it may threaten nearby drinking water in Westlake and clays under the bridge.

"Maybe the water supply of Westlake could be threatened by the edc spill but also, that the clay that supports the existing bridge or that would have to support any replacement bridge cannot support those bridges," said Tritico.

He brought his concerns to  what they call a public scoping meeting-- Step 5 of 22 toward completion of an environmental impact statement to be complete in 2016. 

Joubert Harris is an environmental man for the State.  He says the chemical contamination is one factor they'll have to consider. He says The state's environmental man says they do not have evidence the ethylene dichloride or 1, 2 dichloroethane below is jeopardizing the clays that support the bridge.

"We need to know if there's a way to address the known contamination before we can move forward within the process.  We will examine a number of alternatives one of which is a no build alternative.  So, at the end of the day, maybe we can't build a bridge.  But we do recognize that there's a need," said Harris.

Others here-- representatives of Friend Ships whose relief organization won't be able to come and go if they lower the height of the bridge as some want. 

Officials say now is the time for people to get involved if they want a say in what happens with the bridge. 
  
People have until November 4th to have their comments made part of the record from the meeting this week. 

Copyright 2013 KPLC. All rights reserved