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Baton Rouge has some of the best drinking water in America, and because of the ineptness of the commissioner of conservation, Jim Welsh, it is being threatened by saltwater intrusion.

In the last 50-plus years, the water table in our aquifer, 1,500-foot sands, has decreased almost 250 feet and is steadily turning to saltwater because of intrusion from south of the Baton Rouge fault, which runs generally along I-12.

Industry in our area is pumping 80 million gallons per day from our drinking water aquifers, while they should be using readily available water from the Mississippi River. The refinery here is using 20 million gallons per day, and the worst offender, the paper mill just north of us, is using 40 million gallons per day, based on statistics from the Louisiana Ground Water Resources Commission and the U.S. Geological Survey.

If industry here would just start using river water, as all of the industry south of here is doing, our reservoir could replenish itself, and our children and grandchildren would be able to drink this wonderful water instead of water from the Mississippi River, which they will be doing in the near future.

Welsh has the authority and the obligation to stop the depletion of this valuable asset, but, for some reason has decided to do nothing, except make more studies — which we already have many of telling us what the problem is.

The most-recently commissioned study does not include the biggest industrial user, the paper mill (using 40 million gallons per day). When asked by the Capitol Area Ground Water Commission to include the paper mill in the study, Welsh refused. What in the heck is going on with the commissioner?

James H. Jenkins jr.

retired civil engineer

Baton Rouge