Independent auditor will inspect filters

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 28, 2009



LAPLACE – St. John Parish officials have asked a nationally recognized water treatment firm with local ties for advice on how to approach treatment issues plaguing the LaPlace tap water system.

St. John Acting Chief Administrative Officer Buddy Boe said the parish has enlisted the help of Nalco, which operates a plant in Garyville, to conduct an independent audit of the parish’s $3.3 million Nano Filtration system that was installed to remove impurities from LaPlace tap water.

Starting Tuesday, Nalco representatives will conduct a full review of the water system and the Nano Filtration facility to determine what the parish has done right, what it needs to change and what the next course of action should be.

“This will be an unbiased look into the system by a company that solves water treatment problems on a global scale,” Boe said. “There is no easy to fix to this, but we are committed to getting to the bottom of the problem.”

Nalco’s independent audit comes on the heels of a malfunction at the water treatment facility that caused a complete shutdown of the filtering system. At a Nov. 10 council meeting, administrative officials said that an excessive slimy buildup on the Nano system’s filter membranes, a result of an improper chemical treatment, caused the system to shut down.

Parish engineer C.J. Savoie told the council on Tuesday all of the affected membranes have been cleaned and the system was successfully restarted late last week.

He said residents should begin seeing a change in water quality as soon as next week.

The Nano Filtration system was installed in response to a 2003 administrative order from the Department of Health and Hospitals to clean up LaPlace’s tap water system and rid the water of high levels of trihalomethanes caused by chlorinating. Long-term exposure to trihalomethanes can be dangerous as they can form carcinogens, cancer-causing agents.

In other action from Tuesday’s meeting, the council awarded a $133,800 contract to Lawson-Bonet Construction of Hammond to construct a sewer lift station in Ruddock to serve the Nano Filtration facility.

Savoie told the council the designers of the Nano facility did not include adequate sewage infrastructure and said a lift station is needed to properly pump backwashed water away from the filter plant.

“Every time the system is flushed out, we must bring in vacuum trucks to transport the wastewater out,” Savoie said. “When the trucks get too full we are forced to stop cleaning until they can be emptied.”

Boe said the parish shells out almost $10,000 for the vacuum truck services every time the system is flushed. He said the lift station, which will pump excess sewage from the filter plant to a wastewater plant along Woodland Drive, will pay for itself in just under a year.

Boe also said the lift station will allow the parish to add a permanent restroom facility at the Nano Filtration facility, which is needed for 24-hour operation. He said the lift station will satisfy one of the 34 parish violations assessed in an administrative order from DHH issued in August.

With only six council members present for the vote, the council voted 5-1 in favor of awarding the contract. The lone dissenting vote came from District 7 Councilwoman Cheryll Millet, who expressed reservations on spending more money on a system “that has failed to live up to expectations.”

“I have a problem spending money on a system that is not completely operational,” Millet said.