Tap water delays send tempers to boiling point

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Staff Reporter

EDGARD – The long wait for cleaner tap water in St. John Parish is starting to take its toll on the council members, who aired their frustrations at Tuesday night’s meeting.

District 6 Councilman Ronnie Smith made a motion to persuade the parish legal counsel to look into contracts that the parish has with the designers and manufacturers of the new $3.3 million Nano Filtration system to see what kind of penalties can be assessed for failure to complete the project in a timely manner. Smith said the project is almost a year behind the original expected completion date.

Smith, and District 4 Councilwoman Jaclyn Hotard, had asked representatives from General Electric, the manufacturers of the system, and MWH, the designers of the system, to attend Tuesday’s meeting to discuss the delays, but neither company showed up.

“I requested them to come so I could get concrete answers,” said Smith. “MWH didn’t respond until a day before this meeting, and GE sent no communication at all. I think that is a slap in the face.”

Hotard said she wants Parish Attorney Jeff Perilloux to look into performance clauses in the contracts with GE and MWH to see if the parish can levy fines, or withhold payments altogether.

“We want to send a message that we are serious about this,” said Hotard. “Whatever we can do, we need to do it.”

The Nano Filtration system, which is designed to eliminate discolorations and harmful chemicals from the parish’s drinking water, had been scheduled for completion in August of 2007. The project, however, suffered a long list of delays from a back order in parts, to concerns over water pressure. Smith said he was hoping to get an idea on whether the companies can really get the project done at all.

“They should have sent someone to take responsibility for what has gone on,” said Smith. “I think we are all tired of hearing that it will be done next month, or next week.”

Parish President Bill Hubbard said he supported the motion, and told the council that he wants to provide good quality water to the parish just as much as they do.

Once the filtration system is finally on line, St. John Parish’s tap water will comply with mandates issued by the Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Health and Hospitals. Parish officials say it will also be the best tasting tap water in the nation.