Water towers going up in St. John sign of better water-eventually

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 8, 2008


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE – After much anticipation, St. John Parish is looking to start 2008 with cleaner, healthier tap water.

In a conference call Thursday, parish officials, along with representatives from Montgomery Watson Harza and General Electric, smoothed out the final kinks in the $3.3 million Nano Filtration System designed to enhance the quality of St. John Parish’s much maligned tap water.

Parish Engineer C.J. Savoie said the key sticking point is the integration of a communication system that will monitor and register readings regarding all aspects of the filtration system.

“All the parts to make the system work are in place and ready,” said Savoie. “We just don’t want to start it up without programming the communications system.”

The filtration project has suffered through a lengthy list of delays to completion, originally scheduled to be completed in the early part of 2007.

Backorders in parts, and other setbacks from General Electric, kept pushing completion further back. Savoie could not give an exact date for the

system to be online, but said the parish is aiming for a startup date around the end of January.

Parish officials are also working to settle a wetlands dispute regarding land purchased for construction of one of two water towers to be used in the new filtration system.

Parish attorney Jeff Perilloux said it has not been determined if land on Woodland Drive purchased by the parish can be used to construct the 250,000 gallon water tower.

“We want to make sure there is adequate clearance for the site to be developed,” said Perilloux. “The owners of the property did not have the information needed to clear up the problem

Perilloux said if the issue cannot be resolved, the parish has alternate locations that can be used for construction.

Ralph Bean, director of Public Utilities for St. John said the purpose behind the water towers is two-fold. In addition to storing nearly 500,000 gallons of water, the towers will help maintain positive pressure in the water system.

“If the pumps were to stop, the water in the towers would help keep pressure in the system at adequate levels,” said Bean. “The additional storage will also help us in the event of a fire. There will be plenty of water in reserve.”

Savoie said the first tower, just of Airline Highway near Highway 51 in LaPlace, has been erected, but is not quite ready for water storage. The tower still needs to be cleaned, sandblasted and painted. The color scheme will match existing towers in the parish.

Once completed and online, the filtration system will eliminate high levels of chlorine and triahlomenthanes (THM) a toxic chemical that had been added to the parish’s tap water to clean up its “iced tea” brown appearance. The parish has been under an Environmental Protection Agency mandate to eliminate the chemical from the tap water since 2002.