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East End Bridge over Louisville Water Co. filtration system means salt, spills could 'shut down water system for 800,000 people'


By Curtis Morrison

When salt is put down on the East End Bridge to combat winter ice, it could mix with oil, grime and other gross stuff on the roadway, then end up in our Louisville Water Co. drinking water.

Before the chosen Kentucky approach to the proposed East End Bridge meets the bridge, it will travel beneath an estate through dangerous tunnels that will ultimately limit the bridge’s capacity, whiz by a newly-found family of eagles, to intersect with the wellhead protection area of the Louisville Water Company’s Riverbank Filtration system.

According to Clarence “Bud” Hixson, attorney for Citizen’s for the Advancement of Regional Transportation, Louisville Water Company’s filtration wells reach to Harrods Creek, and that creek has what he calls “confluence” with the Ohio River. (CART is a 20-year-old inter-modal transportation advocacy group.)

“Thousands of gallons of chloride contaminated storm water will discharge into Harrods Creek from a collection system on the East End Bridge all the way to Indiana and from a collection system going through the tunnels to Brownsboro Road.

“Very high levels of chloride and conductivity will cause exceedences of water quality criteria year round as a result of the deicing of the East End Bridge by road salt.” writes Hixson in an email.

The Louisville Water Company is owned by Metro Louisville. Under the leadership of Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson when he was Louisville mayor, the Riverbank Filtration system was built at a cost of millions in the proposed path of the proposed East End bridge. After. The Bridge. Route. Was. Selected.

Why? How?

Advil? Bourbon? Bath salts?

Writes Hixson:

At the earliest meetings, the entire waterbank artesian well system had not been installed and the earliest wellhead protection public meetings showed diagrams of the WPA well head protection area that did not reach Harrods Creek. Later additional artesian wells were drilled and connected to the collector tunnel but misleading WPA maps continued to show up in public consultation meetings.

Attempts to avoid this royal mess go back at least to a memo dated February 12, 2002 from the Division of Water to the Department of Environmental Protection. The former raised concerns with the latter about the consequences of an East End bridge route intersecting the proposed site for the Riverbank Filtration system:

 Snippets from that 2002 memo:

Proposed I-265 bridge alignments “A15, A16 and A2 directly affect the settling ponds.”

“…the Division of Water is concerned about spills and ordinary storm drainage from these alignments reaching the BEP settling ponds and water treatment plant.”

“Road spill and ordinary drainage from these alignments will reach the wellhead protection area and can shut down the water supply for 800,000 people.”

Minutes from a 2006 Meeting:

The meeting was called ‘Section 4 Wellhead Protection Permitting Review Meeting,’ attended by representatives of the Division of Water, KYTC, and LWC.

 “LWC is particularly concerned with chloride levels that could be increased due to road salting in the winter. To date, they haven’t had any appreciable chloride levels to contend with, but were that to change, they would have problems treating them.”

From minutes of a 2009 meeting:

“LWC’s primary concern is contamination of the aquifer from a hazardous spill on the roadway.”

Welcome to 2012.

Greg Fischer is mayor of Louisville, and the last of his four major campaign promises was to build these darn bridges. Being mayor of this place probably is harder than inventing an ice machine.

Now Fischer’s advocacy for an expedited construction of the East End bridge may be at odds with protecting our drinking water from LWC.

Thursday, Hixson sent a “Request for a Public Hearing” to the Kentucky Division of Water regarding the danger of salt and other bridge run-off polluting the Riverbank Filtration system.

In other news, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet still says you can’t see Drumanard appraisal:

In June, Insider Louisville reported that Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, at CART’s urging, was looking into how, and pray tell why, the Kentucky Department of Transportation paid $8.3 million for the Drumanard Estate.

In an update to that story, KYTC responded to Conway’s 13 inquiries, with three pages I’ll take the liberty of translating as, “NO. GO AWAY.”

“Until all parcels are obtained, the appraisals and related documents for all parcels within the project limits are excepted from disclosure,” writes Rebecca W. Goodman, Counsel with KYTC’s Office of Legal Services to Conway. “As the Kentucky Legislature has excepted appraisal documents from disclosure until all property has been acquired, KYTC invokes this exception without reservation, as it is in the best interests of the taxpayers to get the fairest price possible.” (6/28/12 Letter from KYTC to AG)

Since the June 20 signing of the new Record of Decision, KYTC has begun making offers on the remaining parcels that need to be procured for the bridges project. From Goodman’s letter to Conway, “Of the thirty-five parcels remaining to be acquired, 10 are residential, 13 are commercial, three are industrial, eight are owned by the Metro Government and one is owned by the Louisville Water Company.”

Um, the East End bridge route is so near the Riverbank Filtration System, that it requires procurement of Louisville Water Company real estate?


About Curtis Morrison: Curtis Morrison is a journalist who blogs at Louisville Courant. Morrison is a political activist, active in historic-preservation efforts. He is a board member of Neighborhoods Planning and Preservation.


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