City of Lake Charles

SOURCE WATER ASSESSMENT PROGRAM

Public Meeting and Workshop
Tuesday, October 20, 1998
7:00 PM   9:00 PM
Lake Charles, Louisiana

Responsiveness Summary

1. When will consumer confidence reports be available?

The first reports are due out in October of next year. They are supposed to contain information collected by the utility over the previous 12 months. The Source Water Assessment Program (SWAP) information is not required in these reports. What we intend to do is ask the water systems with completed SWAPs to place a notice in the Consumer Confidence Report to notify the public that the results are available from the water system and the DEQ Web Page. Utilities serving over 100,000 are required to post the Consumer Confidence Report on the Internet; EPA will post those serving fewer than 100,000.

2. When will results be available on the DEQ Web Page?

We plan to post results on a quarterly basis. Once the field work begins, we will post any SWAPs completed in the first 3 months and quarterly thereafter. We estimate that the first systems will be posted sometime next summer.

3. When can people in Lake Charles expect the results?

The City of Lake Charles already has a Wellhead Protection Program (WHPP) that was completed in 1996. The maps and inventory are available at the Water Department Office and at DEQ. All potential sources of contamination identified and the city wells have latitude and longitude coordinates surveyed by the Global Positioning System (GPS). Maps can be generated by the Geographic Information System (GIS) at DEQ.

4. Is it only surface water systems left to be surveyed in the Lake Charles area?

All surface water systems and any ground water system that is not currently in, or targeted for, the WHPP will be included in the SWAP.

5. When the WHPP was completed, was only the City of Lake Charles involved or was all of Calcasieu Parish included?

Several systems in Calcasieu Parish are participating in the WHPP. Many of these were completed last year. Public water systems in Calcasieu Parish that are currently in the WHPP include Lake Charles, Sulphur, DeQuincy, Vinton, Water District #1 (Moss Bluff), Water District #2 (Mossville), Water District #4, Water District #5, Water District #7, and Water District #9 (Carlyss).

6. Are there any WHPPs south of Lake Charles, such as in Cameron Parish?

At the present time there are no WHPPs south of Lake Charles in Calcasieu Parish. We just completed one WHPP in Cameron Parish, which was at Hackberry.

7. How can the average citizen use the information on the maps?

The wells or intakes and all the potential sources of contamination identified will be plotted on the map. The streets will also be shown. It makes citizens aware of what facilities are located near their drinking water source that could potentially impact that source. Citizens can also be on the lookout for any illegal discharges or accidental releases.

8. Isn't it true that underground storage tanks (USTs) are heavily regulated? If the company or owner is reputable they spend thousands of dollars to be in compliance.

It is true that there are many compliant operations around the state and they are upgrading their tanks and equipment to comply with a new EPA mandate by December of this year. They are included on their inventory because they fit the definition of a significant potential source of contamination. The definition includes any facility or activity that stores, uses, or produces, as a product or by-product, the contaminants of concern (contaminants regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act) and has a sufficient likelihood of releasing such contaminants at levels that could pose a concern relative to drinking water sources. Therefore, active, compliant UST facilities are included in the inventory simply because of the volume of product stored at the site. Our primary concern is with gas stations that are either abandoned, unregistered, or both. Abandoned tanks may still have product left in them that can leak out over time due to deterioration of the tanks. Unregistered gas stations are not being monitored and may not be in compliance with current regulations. They may also have undetected leaks in their tanks or pipelines. Our UST Division currently has approximately 25,000 USTs registered in their database and they estimated that there are at least one-third that number not registered.

9. If they had a hole in their tank wouldn't they have water in their gas before the gas would ever get into the soil?

In some cases they would but it depends on the depth to the water table. Leaks can also develop in the piping between the tanks and the pumps. Active stations that are monitoring according to the regulations should be able to detect a loss of product on their inventory. Abandoned stations are the worst threat of product is left in the tanks. There is no way to detect leaks because they are not monitored. In Gilbert, the abandoned gas station that contaminated the wells had been abandoned for about 10 years before the leak impacted the wells. Though the station pre-dated UST regulations, the owner supposedly could not account for 50% of his inventory when he closed down in the early 1980s. The tanks were evidently leaking at the time of closure and migrated to the shallow wells over time. The soils surrounding the station were so saturated with gasoline they could be ignited with a match.

10. Is there a means of updating the inventory to include new businesses in Lake Charles since the development of the WHPP? A new metal plating shop just opened across the street from my office. Do they have to notify the Water Department? (This question was directed to the Lake Charles Water Superintendent present at the meeting)

The water superintendent responded by stating that he receives a printout from the City on a monthly basis listing openings and closures of businesses in the city. The Water Department is working to determine if any new businesses have located in wellhead protection areas and if they store, use, or produce the contaminants of concern. Likewise, they want to determine if any businesses identified in the original inventory have since closed. These reports are approximately an inch thick so it's a very time consuming process. However, if the WHPP is not kept up-to-date it doesn't serve its intended purpose. A letter was sent to all businesses identified as a potential source of contamination in the original inventory to notify them that they were located in a wellhead protection area. The mailing also contained information about the program and a sticker the business could display to show their support. New businesses they are likely not aware that they are located in a wellhead protection area unless someone tells them or they see the signs and inquire about it. Once they are identified by the Water Department they can be added to the inventory and the information can be sent to them. It was suggested that the media could launch an advertising campaign to notify new businesses about the program and urge them to contact the Water Department if they suspect they are located in a wellhead protection area. It was also suggested that the City Permit Department could notify incoming businesses of the program when they apply for a permit. As part of the application process they could view the wellhead protection area maps to determine if they're business will be located within one of these areas. If they are located in one of the areas and they store, use, or produce any of the contaminants of concern they could then be required to notify the Water Department so they could be added to the inventory.

11. Comment by the Lake Charles Water Superintendent regarding the question of how these programs will affect the average consumer:

The programs are important because the best thing that can come out of them (besides pollution prevention) is public input and public information to the water system. The public will be alerted through the Consumer Confidence Reports and the Internet that they are a vital part of the programs. Water systems need the public to "keep an eye out" for any problems that could occur. The drinking water issue is going to be a big focus issue in the coming century. The programs take a lot of manpower and effort on the part of the water system and public input is very helpful, especially for small systems with limited resources.

12. Didn't the League of Women Voters or other volunteers survey the wellhead protection areas in Lake Charles?

There were 60 community volunteers who attended training sessions and conducted the inventories for Lake Charles. This was the largest volunteer turn out in the state.

13. On the average ground water velocity weighting factor, does it take into account drawdown due to pumpage?

For the most part, the averages do not reflect pumpage. However, the Lake Charles area has a large cone of depression that covers a large portion of the potentiometric surface map (water level map) used in the study for the Chicot Aquifer in Southwest Louisiana. Therefore, the drawdown in Lake Charles is considered because the drawdown heavily influenced the calculation of the hydraulic gradient.

14. When a well has to be shut down because it's contaminated, how long does it take before that water can be used again?

In some cases the well cannot be used again because the contamination is at high concentrations or the system does not have the capability to treat it. In some cases the water can be treated to meet standards. The time it takes to clean up the aquifer depends on the contaminant characteristics, the concentration of contaminant present, and the aquifer characteristics. It can vary from less than a year to many decades. The Village of Gilbert was forced to plug and abandon their benzene-contaminated wells because they were in poor condition, the concentration of benzene was high, and they could not treat the water to standards. The City of Minden in north Louisiana has been experiencing benzene contamination in their wells for several years. They are currently treating the water via an air stripper at the water treatment plant to remove the benzene before distribution. This is very costly but replacing the 8 wells is not an option. There is no other location to drill that could sustain enough water to meet the demand. The source of the contamination is suspected to be a surface spill of gasoline back in the 1970s but is still under investigation.

15. If a site such as a UST site is abandoned, who is responsible for it? Did Gilbert have to pay for the cleanup and the lost wells?

The owner of a contaminated site is responsible for the cleanup. For USTs, they are reported to the UST Division of DEQ and soil samples are collected to determine if there is contamination at the site. If there is, an assessment must take place to determine the extent of contamination before a cleanup operation can be initiated. The Village of Gilbert received a federal emergency block grant to replace the contaminated wells. The owner of the former gas station was bankrupt so the site now falls under the Leaking UST Trust Fund for cleanup. We all pay for cleanups that are financed by the trust fund since these funds are generated by a tax on gasoline.

16. Commendation from DEQ to the City of Lake Charles and Calcasieu Parish:

The City of Lake Charles was the recipient of the EPA Environmental Excellence Award for Wellhead Protection Programs in 1997 for large systems. Calcasieu Parish Waterworks District #9 serving Carlyss was the recipient of the 1997 award for small systems. This year Calcasieu Parish Waterworks District #1 serving Moss Bluff will be the recipient of the award for small systems at an award ceremony at the State capital next month. We would like to congratulate all of these systems for the efforts they put forth in the development of model WHPPs! 

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