LETTER: Sewer back on front burner

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

After being on the back burner for several years, improvements to Ascension’s wastewater/sewer facilities are on the fast track with pressure from the Department of Environmental Quality, the arm of the EPA in Louisiana. Population growth and levels of bacteria in ground water have become unacceptable as standards are raised. Presently, private homeowners or private companies handle wastewater. This is about to change.

Very soon an ordinance adopted in 2001 and amended in 2010 will be brought before the Ascension Parish Council for adoption. This is one of the requirements necessary in order for the parish to qualify for an $18 million loan from DEQ to jumpstart a public/private partnership that will put our local government in the sewer business for residential, commercial and industrial users. The parish is now in negotiations with Integra, Water LLC, a private Alabama firm, whose local representative is Glenn Shaheen & Associates.

The following language in the ordinance should interest homeowners:

All waters surface or underground, natural or artificial, public or private contained within, flow through or border upon the Ascension Consolidated Utilities Districts are part of the system. Service includes customers inside the parish limits and customers located adjacent to existing wastewater mains outside the parish limits.

Owners of houses, buildings, and properties will be required to connect to public sewer at the property line within 90 days after given official notice when the public sewer is within 300 feet of the property line. All connections shall be made by the parish wastewater department.

Connection fees for improved property on existing streets will be $500. New developments will pay $2,500 per development regardless of the number of homes. What existing developments will pay is not listed. A subdivision or complex that installs its own wastewater system cannot deed that system to an individual or private company. All systems will be publically owned.

Installation shall require a qualified registered professional engineer for all phases of the project to be approved by the Parish of Ascension Chief Engineer.  All costs shall be borne by the owner.

Residential rates will be determined each month by metering water: both metered ($8.00 per 1,000 gallons with a minimum cost of $24/month) and non-metered, using wells or surface water, (flat rate of up to $45).

Commercial rates will include a fee for any meter larger than one inch. Monthly service charges are applicable whether or not any water is used by the customer. Ten percent on the net charge will be added for late payments.

Penalties for violations of discharge into the public system shall be fined not more than $200 for each violation and each day the violation shall continue shall be deemed a separate offense. Persons in violation shall be liable to the parish for any expense, loss, or damage to the system.

While we all agree that we can’t continue to pollute our environment without unwanted consequences, is a public/private partnership the answer? Will service improve enough to meet DEQ standards? Where will the money come from to buy existing treatment plants?  When will the plan to consolidate these systems be unveiled?

If history repeats itself, it will be the engineers and private consulting firms that benefit most.   

Kathryn Goppelt

Gonzales, 675-8002