Water main broken twice along Airline

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 26, 2000

ERIK SANZENBACH / L’Observateur / February 26, 2000

LAPLACE – Residents of LaPlace, especially those living on the south side of Airline Highway, were plagued with low water pressure this week because of a construction crew that broke an 18-inch water main, not once, but twice in less than five days along U.S. Highway 51 and Airline Highway.The Spalj Construction Co., which is under contract to EnronCommunications, was laying a fiber optic cable on U.S. 51 when it broke awater main near the Glade School last Friday afternoon.

Then Tuesday afternoon contractors busted the main water line at the intersection of Airline Highway and U.S. 51. Water gushed out into thestreet and formed a small waterfall into the adjoining canal.

The problem was brought up by Parish President Nickie Monica at the parish council meeting Tuesday evening.

He asked the council to rescind the letter of no objection that allowed Enron to lay the fiber optic cable.

“I want a guarantee from the contractors they won’t hit another water main,” Monica told the council.

The next day Monica sat down with the contractors and hammered out a deal that allowed Enron to keep laying the cable. The contractors agreed to payfor all the repairs to the water system. Plus, a parish water worker willaccompany the contractor’s crew while they are in St. John Parish. SpaljConstruction will pay for the extra expense to the parish.

“The contractors are working real close with us,” said Monica. “They will payfor the repairs.”Part of the problem, said Monica, is that by state law a contractor doesn’t have to give a parish more than 48 hours notice before they come into the parish to lay cable.

“This doesn’t give us a lot of time to mark pipes for them,” said Monica.

Plus, Monica said the maze of water pipes under the ground in the parish hasn’t really been mapped out completely.

“There are about three layers of water pipes,” said Monica, “but we only have one set of maps to work with.”This was demonstrated Tuesday afternoon when parish workers were unable to locate the correct valved to turn off the water. As a result, water rushedout onto the highway for nearly an hour.

At the council meeting, Council Chairman Duaine Duffy addressed the problem.

“This problem has existed for awhile,” Duffy told the council. “There is nocomprehensive mapping system of water pipes and valves. We have to findout where the valves are. We need to give our workers some assistance.”Assistance should be coming soon. The parish did contract GeographicComputer Technologies to produce a computerized map of St. John Parishcalled a Global Information System. The GIS will show not only streets,houses and businesses, but also sewer and water lines. Greg Thompson, CEOof Geographic Computer Technologies, told the council in January the water system was the only part missing from the GIS, and they were working on it as fast as they could.

Monica said Spalj Construction has also agreed their workers will dig down to 8 feet, which should miss all the water lines in the parish.

Monica also said he would like to start charging these contractors a fee to locate all pipes and wiring before they come into the parish.

Local attorney Daniel Becnel Jr. addressed the council Tuesday night and saidhe is filing a civil suit against Enron because the construction crew had trespassed on his land, broke a water main, destroyed his roadway and filled up his culverts and drainage system with mud.

By Thursday Daniel Becnel III had filed two suits in Judge Madeline Jasmin’s court. He filed a personal-injury suit against Spalj Construction for thedamage done to his father’s land and also filed a class-action suit for the residents of LaPlace who lost water-pressure during both water outages.

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