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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

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Proposed pump station near Thibodaux scrapped for fear of drinking water contamination

Proposed pump station near Thibodaux scrapped for fear of drinking water contamination

A proposed pump station at Dugas Canal, which would discharge drainage water into Bayou Lafourche near Thibodaux, possibly affecting the drinking water of thousands of people, will not be built, says Parish President Jimmy Cantrelle.

The long-awaited $4.5 million Dugas Canal Pump Station project, an effort to alleviate the flooding of residents and businesses in a nearly 3,000 acre area, which includes Nicholls State University, Thibodaux Regional Medical Center, Bayou Country Club, Peltier Park and other nearby neighborhoods, has for all intents and purposes been scrapped by Cantrelle.

The region that the project was proposed to improve was first identified as a flood-prone area after Tropical Storm Allison in 2001. Residents continue to be affected by poor drainage.

Residents have pleaded with parish government to go forward with the fully-funded and permitted project.

Despite these pleadings and the apparent blessings of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, (and a permit from the U S Army Corps of Engineers), Cantrelle says the pump station is not the answer.
Lafourche Parish Water District General Manager Dirk Barrios says water quality is the real issue.

Decaying matter on the bottom of Bayou Lafourche will be turned up, he and other officials say, polluting drinking water for people from Raceland to Fourchon. Terrebonne Parish could also be adversely affected as it gets some of its water from Bayou Lafourche near Shriever.

“I have three or four engineers working on this project—to solve the problem without putting water into Bayou Lafourche,” he said at last week’s Council public meeting.

Cantrelle said restricted drainage from clogged and inadequate outfalls, flood waters dramatically influenced by tidal surge, and building a pump station which may never operate, are all concerns driving his decision to find another way to solve the problem.

Larger culverts and a cleaned out 28 Arpent Canal could be the answer, he said.

While Cantrelle said he can only find about 12 homes which flooded in that area since 2002, residents say the number is much higher.

“There are 1000 homes in the watershed of Dugas Canal with more construction. At least 70 homes flooded for Allison, 15 in Brandywine,” said Gwen Cheramie, a Country Club resident.

To fears that the CDGB grant could be lost because it is not used in a timely manner, administration says there is no chance of that happening.

Councilman Daniel Lorraine noted that the grant money could be used for other drainage purposes within the Dugas Canal watershed, even if it is not used for a pump station.

Lorraine advised residents to “be calm”, but also said “I’m not gonna jeopardize my people”, if he had to vote on the project.

Jerry Lafont said simply: “If there’s any chance of my drinking water being ruined, I’m not voting for it.”

“I don’t think we should take our drinking water impoundment and pump our drainage water into it. It is the only water in Lafourche Parish that we can use as drinking water. We will most likely have odor, taste and color issues. This makes the water more expensive to treat,” he said.

And then there’s the Bayou Lafourche Freshwater District, owners of the property on which the pump station is proposed to be built, who refuse to give the land to the parish.

Executive Director Ben Malbrough, P.E. of the Freshwater District says: “Our concern is water elevation. The elevation in Bayou Lafourche that you see now is the result of an increase in flow at Donaldsonville. The Dugas project will only exacerbate that problem. We did submit a formal objection to DNR. Our objection is still there.”

Mike Sobert, General Manager of Terrebonne Consolidated Waterworks District #1 objected because of worries his Shriever plant will be under water.

Also when water in Bayou Lafourche is high, the alternate source in Bayou Black is 35% more costly to treat because it is swamp water, he said Tuesday.

District 4 Councilman Bo Melvin echoed the sentiments of his constituents who live in the Dugas Canal area when he challenged President Cantrelle to hear their concerns, saying “people voted for Mr. Cantrelle, but it seems he won’t listen to people.”

Cantrelle told Melvin and others in attendance that he was “not gonna take a problem in one area and destroy another.”

“I am working on the problem. I've been working ever since I knew there was a problem. I haven't given up, but evidently it doesn't go into some people's heads. I'm not going to take a chance of ruining 200,000 people's drinking water. Whatever slim chance it is, I'm not taking that risk,” said Cantrelle.