Accardo: Wastewater department in trouble

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 9, 2000

LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / September 9, 2000

HAHNVILLE – Sammy Accardo minced no words in telling the St. CharlesParish Council at its Sept. 5 meeting that the wastewater treatmentdepartment was in trouble.

“I’m not going to get any awards tonight. I’m going to bring you the badnews,” he said.

Accardo’s remarks supplemented Wastewater Director Steven Fall’s reportto the council, which detailed the department’s accomplishments, whileoutlining where the parish is falling short.

Recently, Parish President Albert Laque revealed the financial straits thewastewater program finds itself in and cautioned the public of a likely heftyrate increase to keep the EPA wolves from the door.

The rate increase will keep open the new Destrehan and Hahnville regionaltreatment plants, built at the insistence of the U.S. EnvironmentalProtection Agency to meet federal standards. Likewise, the increase isaimed to handle depreciation of equipment, operating expenditures andprovide a budget for future capital projects.

In the past, Laque said recently, though the financial problems were publiclynoted by then-Parish President Chris Tregre, no permanent solution wasoffered to cover those problems.

One sizeable problem is the Ama sewer lift station, designed to transportwaste to the Luling oxidation pond behind Mimosa Park. However, the pond ispresently choked with water hyacinths. “It’s unbelievable!” Accardo said.

“There’s no end to them.”The 55-acre pond, with five aeration cells and 12 vertical lift aerators,moves wastewater toward a filter system for chlorination and de-chlorination before discharge into the marsh beyond.

The department has added qualified operators in the past few months butare still short-handed and “there’s still not enough employees to run thesystem,” Fall said.

The financial picture, likewise, is dire. A $125,000 loss in 1995 was followedby a $759,000 loss in 1996, $645,000 loss in 1997, $1 million loss in 1998and $463,000 loss in 1999. That last year would have been closer to the1998 figure, Fall said, but a $400,000 transfer of funds from the airportsales tax revenue bailed that out, with council approval.

Fall said with the new plants that the parish can expect a $1.6 million loss ontop of the regular anticipated loss.

Accardo added, “I know politically it’s a disaster.”At the same meeting, elsewhere in the agenda, two public works projectsdeceased the contract amounts. A $6,609 reduction in the Ormond RoadRaising project was approved, sparking a lengthy discussion as to the fiberoptic line installed along Airline Drive which ruined the landscaping anddrainage near that road raising project.

Another was a $30,000 reduction in the Paul Maillard Road sidewalk project,done to bring it in line with state grant money financing the work.

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