St. John to wait a little longer for much-needed improvements to water

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 3, 2007


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE – Residents of St. John the Baptist Parish will have to wait about another month before enjoying the better tasting tap water that has been promised to them, as delays continue at the filtration facility designed to improve it.

Ray Rials, spokesperson for MWH, the engineering firm tied to the project, said to the Parish Council that the final components of the $3.3 million plant located near Highway 51 in LaPlace, were dropped off September 25, and contractors are working diligently to get the system running.

&#8220The contractor now needs to begin to insulate the piping for the installation of the equipment that was delivered,” said Rials to the council. &#8220We can then do our beginning field test to make sure it is all leak proof, and then begin testing the system itself.”

Rials said he did not want to make any solid promises, but said he is optimistic that the system would be completely online by the middle or end of October.

The facility, which utilizes a Nanofiltration device, will give St. John’s tap water a clear color without having to add high levels of total triahlomenthanes (TTHMs), a chemical additive that kept the water from being an &#8220iced tea” brown color, but also made the water taste bad.

According to the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH), the parish had been ordered in 1998 to comply with an Environmental Protection Agency Act limiting the number of TTHMs, a proven cancer-causing agent, from 100 parts per million to 80 parts per million. Parish Engineer Chuck Savoie said the facility would produce crystal clear water with approximately 40 parts per million of TTHMs.

&#8220We have a mandated deadline coming up in October that we will probably have to get extended,” said Savoie. &#8220We have been in touch with DHH officials just recently, and we are trying to get a final deadline.”

The project has suffered countless delays in production and delivery of components from the General Electric plant in Ontario, Canada. Savoie said the company said they had been suffering a backlog in production as a result of producing components for water systems affected by Hurricane Katrina.

The decision to implement a Nanofiltration plant as opposed to other systems came after Savoie and Utility Director Ralph Bean scoured cities throughout the United States and analyzed the available options to improve tap water quality. They settled on the filtration system over a system in use in Florida employing crystals that had been minimally tested.

&#8220What people don’t know is how much research we did,” said Savoie. &#8220We felt we were on the chopping block, and people were going to look back and say ‘Chuck Savoie put that in.’ We feel we got the best possible system for the most reasonable amount of money.”