Aug. 28 tap water deadline set

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 25, 2008


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE – After over a year’s worth of delays in installation of a tap water filtration system for St. John Parish, representatives from the designers and manufacturers of the system told the parish council Tuesday night that it should be ready by the end of next month.

Facing harsh criticism over the sluggish pace to resolve various issues in getting the parish’s new $3.3 million Nano Filtration System fully operational, representatives from MWH, the designers of the system, and General Electric, the manufacturers of the system, said the project is on track for completion the week of August 28.

“We are looking to have filtered water running through the parish system by that date,” said MWH Principal Engineer Ray Rials. “We wish it had happened faster, but we are motivated to get it onboard.”

Although a relatively concrete date had been given, GE and MWH still did not specifically say when all parish residents could begin to consume the clean tap water they continue to be promised.

Kade Gibson, an engineer for GE Water and Process Technology, said that the old water must be completely flushed from the system before the filtered water is running parish wide. He said the flushing, which should take about a month, would occur after the August 28 completion date.

“Residents will have better quality water by the end of August, but it will take some time to get it through the system completely,” said Gibson. “We want to get this done as soon as we can.”

It also comes down to how close residents live to the facility where the filtration system is housed. Rials said residents living closer to the plant, located just south of Interstate 10 near US Highway 51 in LaPlace, would get fully filtered tap water sooner than others, but residents parishwide would be enjoying it within a month of the completion date.

Rials and Gibson said all of the major setbacks in completion, such as delays in equipment delivery, defects in the computer system and problems with water pressure, have been resolved. Rials said the project has now been narrowed down to a few minor fine-tuning issues that are a result of getting a comprehensive system of this kind ready for regular use.

Despite the vote of confidence from MWH and GE that the project is on track, council members still seemed skeptical, and frustration still clearly looms over the tenuous tap water topic.

“It’s good that you are motivated, but you are not the ones getting phone calls from constituents,” said District 6 Councilman Ronnie Smith to Rials and Gibson. “I think we are all tired of buying bottled water.”

Jaclyn Hotard, St. John council chairwoman, agreed with Smith’s assessment and said she does not feel comfortable with the August 28 date.

“This is a very important issue to the people in St. John,” Hotard said. “It has become tiresome to talk about.”

District I Councilman Haston Lewis questioned the level of maintenance that might be needed once the system is running. Gibson assured Lewis and the council that the parish has invested in a good system.

“We have a good support network with many employees ready to assist when needed,” said Gibson. “But we expect there will be no issues at all.”

Rials added that the system is actually working in automatic right now, but said that the filter membranes have not been installed, so nothing is being filtered out.

Rials said once the membranes are installed, a sample of the filtered water must be forwarded to the Department of Health and Hospitals for final approval before it can flow through the system.

Officials from DHH and the Environmental Protection Agency had imposed mandates on the parish back in 2002 to remove harmful chemicals from the tap water supply. The chemicals had been added to the drinking water to remove unappealing discolorations.