Word definition costs St. John Parish $15,000

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 6, 2005


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE — In December 2003, an administrative order from the Department of Health and Hospitals commanded St. John the Baptist Parish to improve the water quality. The Parish missed the deadline, resulting in a $15,000 fine.

Also included in the order was to make renovations to the mechanical and operational items at the Ruddock Well System and the Lions Water Plant.

In order to do this a $9.5 million bond issue was approved on July 17, 2004, in order to bring the Parish into compliance with the DHH.

“During this attempt to fine us, the DHH forgets the fact we kept them informed the whole time about improvements,” said Councilman Allen St. Pierre.

“We wrote letters asking for more time without a fine, and they agreed to this the whole time.”

St. Pierre said they had 45 deficiencies and have completed 37 out of the 45.

“The most important thing left to do are the renovations of the Lions Water Plant,” St. Pierre said. “We have to wait and find out the conditions of the Mississippi River.”

According to St. Pierre, the bond money included a new “treatment system” for the Ruddock Well System and enough money to make all repairs.

“We feel we’re not going to be fined,” St. Pierre said. “They didn’t clarify with the letters they sent and now they are saying we are not understanding what they meant.”

Director of Public Utilities Ralph Bean said the order involved the maintenance of three ground story tanks and lines.

“We thought the word implement meant to work on the plans that were approved,” Bean said.

“If we knew they meant to have it completed by March 31, we would have not been able to make that date and would have ask for an extension.”

According to Bean, on April 2, the Department of Health and Hospital did their periodic review and reported everything wasn’t completed.

“We didn’t know it was supposed to be completed,” Bean said. “We were in the middle of “implementing,” there was just a misunderstanding in what the word meant.”

Bean said they actually were asked to look the definition up in Webster’s Dictionary for the correct meaning of the word, implement.

“We received an “imposition of penalties” on May 16,” Bean said. “We had the open to apply for mitigation in writing, so we did. We sent the letter off on May 19, but still haven’t heard back.”

According to Bean the DHH admitted to some confusion in the letter and plan on “changing how the orders are worded.”