Water pressure expected back today

Published 12:12 am Saturday, January 20, 2018

LAPLACE — Water pressure should be restored today across St. John the Baptist Parish.

Parish President Natalie Robottom warned the return of water pressure could lead to more leaks being reported.

An extended period of freezing temperatures that began Tuesday night led to more than 200 reported leaks from broken pipes and backflow preventers that pushed water systems over capacity, Robottom said.

“What we’re finding is as pressure in our pipes increases, residents are starting to find that they have leaks,” Robottom said. “The pipes thaw out, and the pressure is high enough that it starts to put water through the cracks.”

Residents who notice leaks are urged to shut off water immediately and contact a licensed plumber to repair pipes. Those who need assistance turning off water should call 985-651-6800 or 985-652-9569.

According to Robottom, St. John residents used three times the amount of water typically used since Wednesday, leaving systems little chance to replenish.

Emergency personnel responded to more than 200 calls between Wednesday and Friday morning.

“A lot of our residents with older homes and unprotected pipes are having problems with breaks,” Robottom said. “When pipes break and leaks occur, a lot of our water is being placed on the ground and not available to our residents.”

She said backflow preventers in commercial locations are responsible for a large portion of water loss, with breaks causing leaks to gush up like geysers.

A boil advisory remains in affect in St. John the Baptist Parish as mandated by the Department of Health in instances where water pressure drops below 15 psi.

Robottom said water emergencies could be avoided during future weather events with cooperation in conservation efforts from the public. She advises residents to insulate pipes prior to running drips.

A requirement to cover backflow preventers with boxes during freezes may soon go into effect, Robottom said.

Additionally, there are plans to address water facility issues from the government side.

“The LaPlace system is the most modern and up-to-date that produces the most water,” Robottom said. “We’d like to expand our LaPlace system to be able to support Reserve and the West Bank. The way to do that and have all three of our systems connected is to move our water source to the river and have all systems utilizing the same reverse osmosis technology that has helped LaPlace greatly.”

St. John Public Schools

Like many schools and districts across the state, St. John the Baptist Parish Public Schools canceled classed Wednesday through Friday.

Two previous unplanned cancellations this month meant the extension of the school day by ten minutes for the rest of the academic year.

How to respond to the loss of three more days is still being discussed.

“Our team is working on a bunch of different scenarios, including, and I know no one wants to hear this, looking at (off) days that were allocated for Mardi Gras holidays and spring break,” Superintendent Kevin George said. “That is always last resort.

“We want to add minutes where it is feasible, but we have a bunch of different scenarios.”

School administrators plan to present different options to School Board members Monday during the Board’s scheduled retreat in New Orleans.

School Board members are expected to vote on a solution at that time.

If the school day is extended again, those times would tentatively take effect Jan. 29.

“Everyday we have school without adjusting (time) just adds to what you have to do,” George said.

“You are looking at anywhere from 15 and 20 minutes.”

School was closed Wednesday and Thursday due to extreme weather conditions. The closure on Friday was attributed to water pressure.

“There were some brutal cold temperatures when you’re talking about wind chills at 10 degrees,” George said. “Having kids at the bus stop waiting on the bus for 15 and 20 minutes would have been an issue.”