A 1994 chemical spill has blocked the way for a new I-10 Calcasieu River Bridge for a number of years now. And there's a lawsuit connected with the spill.
Officials with the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development say a new I-10 Calcasieu River Bridge would have been built by now -- or at least be well underway, along with construction of a new I-10 Sampson street interchange, but for 1994 ethylene dichloride spill.
A pipeline failure caused an estimated 1.7 million pounds of EDC to be released. Conoco owned the pipeline while Sasol's predecessor owned the EDC.
DOTD officials have said when a new bridge is built, they must avoid hitting the underground plume of chemical contamination to avoid spreading it, as DOTD Attorney Patrick McIntire explained earlier this year.
"It's going to cost extra to stay out of the contamination when the bridge is built and that's the damages that the state is requesting that be awarded in the lawsuit," McIntire said.
The DOTD estimates the state's damages from the spill are $235-million, including the increased cost of a bridge with spans long enough to bypass the spill. Judge Clayton Davis continued trial on the lawsuit until a three-year environmental impact study is done. Though Davis continued the October trial date, he did order a status conference to be held within six months to reconsider.
But DOTD hopes the Louisiana Supreme Court will reverse that decision.
"We have to do continued maintenance on the old bridge until the new bridge is built. We recently completed a project that cost about $5.7 million. Further delays are just going to mean more maintenance costs. The engineers for DOTD have provided an assessment of the structure required because of the contamination and the extra costs to build it," McIntire said. "DOTD would like to move forward with the case and get a trial date."
Earlier, Conoco Phillips and Sasol said it's uncertain what kind of bridge should be built -- and that the trial on that part of damages should be delayed until the environmental impact study which they said would help experts decide the best design for the bridge.
We contacted Conoco Phillips and received the following response from a spokesman:
"Phillips 66 believes the trial court's ruling was well-reasoned and fair," the spokesman said.
For more information about this issue, refer to the 'Clooney Loop Remediation and the I-10 Bridge' link at www.lakecharlesrefinery.com.