BATON ROUGE- Salt water is seeping into the drinking water aquifers below Baton Rouge and big industry is at least partially to blame. "It's a localized phenomena that we feel we're getting a handle on," said Tony Duplechin, executive director of the Capital Area Ground Water Conservation District.
Fifty years ago salt water intrusion was first noticed in the area of the Interstate 10-12 split. Now it's spread to downtown in the direction of the Exxon refinery.
Wells have been drilled to reverse the process but environmentalists want to force Exxon and Georgia-Pacific off the aquifer altogether. The two plants are the largest consumers of aquifer water in the parish. Environmentalists claim they're consuming so much, the aquifers will be unfit for drinking in a matter of decades.
Duplechin said environmentalists are overstating industry's effect. "They're not wasting water, they're not using up the aquifer," he said. Duplechin said most drinking water wells are located in the northern part of the parish away from the seepage.
Just the same, State Representative Denise Marcelle (D-Baton Rouge) has filed a bill to kick the three industry representatives off the sixteen person water protection board.
"You shouldn't be regulating yourself, and there are plenty of water experts around that don't belong to industry," said Hays Town, a civil engineer allied with environmentalists.
Town said the large industries should close their private wells and switch to river water, a far more expensive process for the companies.
Georgia-Pacific released the following statement: Our position is that industrial user representation on the Capital Area Ground Water Conservation Commission gives the state a balanced viewpoint when combined with representation from public water suppliers, local governments, and the general public. Industry representatives also bring expertise about ground water engineering to the discussion and often are the ones who can implement changes to protect public water supply.
Exxon released this statement: ExxonMobil is committed to using sound science as the basis for developing effective, long-term strategies for groundwater use. A recently-released report from the Office of Conservation finds “groundwater withdrawals from the Southern Hills Aquifer system to be substantially sustainable for the near future (the next five years) across the region, with little to no impact on water supplies for those parishes dependent on groundwater resources…”