Councilman wants west bank water answers

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 24, 2012



LAPLACE – St. John the Baptist Parish Councilman Art Smith has asked parish government officials to come to Tuesday’s council meeting in LaPlace with answers on how the parish plans to attack and correct a series of violations of the federal Clean Water Act cited at the parish’s west bank water treatment system.

The state Department of Environmental Quality recently delivered a report to the parish documenting nine violations at the Edgard treatment plant over a five-year period ending in 2011.

“I want the people to hear the answers, and I want them to be able to hear those answers, not just from me but also from the administration,” said Smith, who represents the west bank. “I want the administration to dictate what the parish is going to do and how we are going to get there.”

According to the DEQ report, the parish’s west bank water system exceeded the maximum contaminant level for total trihalomethanes during monitoring periods from July 2006 to September 2009, and water plant personnel failed to monitor or report the levels of trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids for much of much of 2009.

“These problems were not created yesterday,” Smith said. “I know that this new administration inherited many of the issues, but it is our responsibility to correct the problems and quickly.”

Also included in the report, received by the parish in February, is a citation for having only one water clarifier at the Edgard treatment plant rather than the required two. The parish recently completed repairs to the existing clarifier to extend its life for at least another three years while the parish waits to construct an under-the-river water line to connect the Edgard Plant to the Lions water plant in Reserve.

“We don’t know how long it will take for us to build that water line,” Smith said. “If we wait around, the problems could get worse.”

Other citations included in the report deal with the lack of an approved chlorine room and improper labeling of chemical feed lines and storage tanks. The report also said the water department hasn’t taken measures to protect its water intake from damage from anchor dragging, debris or other sources of pollution.

Parish spokeswoman Paige Braud said many of the citations are the result of a change in Environmental Protection Agency regulations to track infractions over five-year period rather than a one-year period. She said many of the problems have already been resolved.

“Over the past 22 months, we have made a concerted effort to improve water systems on both sides of the river and were extremely disappointed to find we continue to be penalized for violations from five years ago, many of which have been corrected,” Braud said. “The Director of Utilities and some other staff members have met with Department of Health and Human Services personnel this week to obtain a better understanding of the new system and the impact to our water systems, despite corrective measures under way.”

Smith said a failure at the plant would be “life-changing” for residents, and he wants them to remain informed as much as possible.

“More people than ever are watching these council meetings on their TVs,” Smith said. “What better forum is there?”

The St. John Council meets Tuesday evening at 6:30 p.m. at the Percy Hebert Building, 1801 W. Airline Highway, in LaPlace.