Water emergency declared

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 30, 2000

ERIK SANZENBACH / L’Observateur / May 30, 2000

LAPLACE – Because of the severe water drought and the lack of rain, St.

John Parish President Nickie Monica has declared a water emergency on the east bank of the parish.

Parish officials are asking residents to voluntarily stop watering lawns, filling swimming pools and opening fire hydrants.

Bertram Madere, St. John Parish director of Civil Defense, said the parishhas declared an emergency in order to make sure there is enough water for the fire department.

“We have to have water for fire emergencies,” said Madere, “and if people would just stop watering their lawns, we wouldn’t have this problem.”It isn’t just the lack of rain that is causing the problem. The Mississippi Riveris at its lowest level in 30 years, and the parish is still upgrading the intake pumps at the Lions Water Plant. Plus the Belle Terre water tower is still off-line but should shortly be filled with water by the end of the week. Becauseof this, water levels in the other water tanks are critically low.

“People are tripling their water demand because of the hot weather,” said Madere. “With one water tower down and the upgrade at the Lions plant, thewhole situation is taxing the parish water supply.”The water emergency will last until the beginning of next week, then parish authorities will re-assess the situation.

“This will last as long as the weather is like this,” said Monica.

Right now, Monica is asking parish residents on the east bank to curtail water usage voluntarily. The parish code enforcement officer, Kermit Duhe, St.John Sheriff’s deputies and fire fighters from the LaPlace Volunteer Fire Department will be going around making sure that people are not watering their lawns.

“There won’t be any fines or summonses,” said Monica.

However, if the drought continues after next week and the water levels are still low, then Monica will start to institute fines for using too much water.

The past weekend the parish was faced with another problem that caused low water pressure. In order to beat the oppressive heat, kids are openingfire hydrants, lowering water pressure and the amount of available water.

“We are asking citizens to call 9-1-1 if they see any water hydrants being opened,” said Monica. “Also, if you see any water in drainage ditches pleaseinform the authorities, because this means that a water line may have broken.”Broken water mains are another consequence of this drought. SinceSaturday two water mains in the parish have busted because of dry and contracting sub-soil.

On Saturday, a water pipe on East Sixth and River Road ruptured with a 6- inch hole. It was quickly fixed, but Monica said that sub soil subsidencecaused the pipe to move which caused the rupture.

Tuesday morning the River Forest subdivision was faced with a temporary water shortage because a connection on the water main along East Airline Highway broke. Monica said a combination of the drought and the optic-fibercable company working in the area caused the disruption in the water service.

Level Three Gilberton Cable Co. is laying optic fiber along Airline Highway. Monica said when they dig a trench for the cable they leave a void in the soil.

With the dry conditions here the soil moves into that void moving the water pipe and causing a rupture.

Superintendent of Utilities Bernard Jarrow said, “When the ground is this dry, it cracks and moves shoving pipes up and breaking them at the seals.”The water break on Airline Highway did have one positive effect. While parishworkers were fixing the leak all the water formed a small lake and irrigated a sugar cane field.

The water pipe was fixed by noon Tuesday with minor disruption in water service.

Residents from other parts of town called the water department complaining of low water pressure. Madere said that when a water main breaks, itaffects the water pressure throughout LaPlace, not just the area of the break.

“People have to be patient and allow the pressure to build back up,” said Madere.

Madere also said the drought has forced the Louisiana fire marshal to declare this area a “no-burn” area, meaning that the dry brush and vegetation could be a fire hazard.

So, for right now, the parish is asking all citizens to stop filling their swimming pools, opening fire hydrants and watering their lawns.

“Personally speaking,” said Monica, “my own lawn is half-dead. I am leading byexample.”

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