Council debates best LaPlace water fix

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 15, 2014

By Richard Meek
Contributing Writer

LAPLACE – A long-standing problem that has caused considerable consternation among St. John the Baptist Parish Council members once again sparked a tense debate Tuesday night.

Sparking the discussion was a scheduled inspection of the Ruddock water well, which supplies water to LaPlace but has also come under increased scrutiny because of a number of mechanical and other failures. Director of Utilities Virgil Rayneri told council members that inspection of the facility has been postponed twice in recent weeks, once because of a personal problem with the manager and the second time because of the ice storm that virtually shut down the parish. He said another inspection has been scheduled during the first week of March.

“I want to do the inspection as much as you,” he told the council.

Rayneri added that the parish has connected with the St. Charles Parish water lines and the Lions plant in the event of an interruption in service, as has previously occurred.

The conversation then switched to the future of the Ruddock well, which has been discussed on several occasions, but there appears to be no consensus for a solution. Some council members favor a new well being added to the existing two wells at Ruddock to increase capacity, but Robottom and other council members endorse building a new facility or expanding a current plant near the Mississippi River to draw the water.

A chronic problem with the Ruddock well is the water has to be transported several miles, and breakdowns usually occur along the lengthy pipeline and not necessarily at the well site.

“What happens when there is a flood or a pipe breaks?” Robottom asked of the Ruddock site. “(Eventually) we must find a source to feed a large area.”

Council member Marvin Perrilloux said he is willing to wait to see the results of the March inspection but given the information, will likely make a motion to build a new well in Ruddock.

“We need to do something,” he said.

“How will that help us?” Robottom immediately inquired.

“I don’t need no chitter chatter,” Perrilloux quickly added, in response to a series of comments about alternative sources of water now available to the parish.

Council member Ranney Wilson asked if it would be cost effective to build a new plant at the river or a new Ruddock well.

“Another well (at Ruddock) will do no good,” Robottom said. “We are vehemently against that well.”

She said workers’ safety could be compromised, especially when working at night because of the darkness and other concerns.

“Our water needs to come from the river, period,” Robottom said.

Wilson added he is against adding the well and endorses building a plant on the river.

In other council news:

• Coyotes were also on the mind of council members after Director of Emergency Preparedness Jobe Boucvalt reported that Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries agents caught six of the animals that had been plaguing several neighborhoods.

“It looks like (the agents) made some impact,” Boucvalt said. “We are not seeing the tracks anymore. Maybe some other people made some impact. It looks good.”

• The condition of some railroad crossings continue to concern council members. Director of Public Works Brian Nunes said CN Railroad was presented with a list of 23 crossing that it is responsible for maintaining. Of the 23, Nunes said 12 were in need of repair. He said a meeting has been scheduled at the end of February with railroad officials to discuss potential solutions.

“The problem I have is with the blocking of crossings,” council member Jaclyn Hotard said, adding that some of the crossings are blocked for long periods of time while railroad cars are being switched down the line.

She said delays often occur during school hours and that some crossings are blocked up to 45 minutes at a time.

“We are not getting the work done,” council member Lucien Gauff III said. “Even some of the work getting done is making it worse than before. They are putting in more rocks rather than crossties. They seem to be making these crossings worse.”