LaPlace looks for another water source

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 20, 2013

By Richard Meek
Contributing Writer

LAPLACE – Identifying an alternative source of water for LaPlace residents continues to be a source of concern for officials of St. John the Baptist Parish.
There even appears to be some disagreement among the administration staff regarding the possibility of building a third well at the Ruddock plant, which is the current water source for LaPlace or constructing a new plant along the river that may cost up to $30 million and take 10 years to complete.
Parish engineer Chuck Savoie said the most economical and quickest fix is to drill a third well at Ruddock at an estimated cost of $1.5 million. The project, including the design and obtaining permits, should take about a year or less to complete, he said.
Director of Utilities Virgil Rayneri and others, however, have pointed out several concerns with drilling a new well, including the plant’s distance from LaPlace as well as aging pipes.
“If you put in another well you have another problem,” Rayneri recently told council members. “You have 18 miles underground with pipes failing. Every time you have to valve off a system you are creating a problem that you may not recover.”
Parish President Natalie Robottom has previously voiced her opposition to the third well, preferring to explore other options, including the expansion of the Lions plant in Reserve and running pipes into LaPlace.
An entirely new plant, if constructed, would likely be located near the Mississippi River with the water coming from the river.
In late December during a meeting council member instructed the administration to identify a funding source to drill the third well.
Rayneri recently informed council members that a committee has been appointed by Robottom to research the issue and to present a recommendation. The formation of the committee, however, appeared to surprise some council members.
“I’m confused,” council member Cheryl Millet said. “Now we’re having a committee to look at alternatives that we never asked for. We asked for the money to drop the well.
“Bottom line is we’re living with a time bomb at this well. The residents of LaPlace can go without water at any time, and we’re not
getting any closer to alleviating that situation. We don’t have 10 years.”
Rayneri said for the “past 30 years we’ve been living with a time bomb. Nobody ever worried about it. Nobody ever thought about it.”
Water supply has taken priority because of recent outages that left residents without water as well as a power outage at the Ruddock well during Hurricane Isaac. During Isaac, helicopters had to be flown to the site so workers could begin operating the plant manually.
Rayneri said the council should receive the committee’s report in the next several weeks.