Pay for east bank sewer now, or pay a lot more later

William Daniel (file photo)

Citing Louisiana’s Department of Health on Tuesday, Ascension’s Infrastructure Division Director William Daniel told the Parish Council Utilities Committee that 17,000 “aerobic (sewer) treatment units” are operating in the parish.  And “there’s almost an equal number of old septic tanks,” none of which are operating so well.  Along with private treatment company customers they form the pool of potential customers with which Ascension will dive into the Regional Wastewater Treatment business.

Daniel would go on to say that 99.9% of those individuals “are paying nothing” toward east bank Ascension sanitary sewer efforts.

“It’s important for everybody to pay their fair share,” he went on.  “This is not the kind of parish that we want to be; a parish that puts sewer in a ditch.  It’s not who we are…You can’t have a high standard of living putting sewer in a ditch.”

The Infrastructure Division Director is working toward ordinances intended to incentivize “violators” onto a yet-to-be parish system.  One proposal being considered is a monthly maintenance requirement whereby each unit is maintained monthly with reports being monitored by the parish automatically by private providers subject to penalty for non-compliance.  A second proposal would require developers to install a camera in sewer pipes.

Daniel pointed to drainage problems caused by untreated sewer in ditches.  It increases vegetation which clogs culverts and drains, requiring more intensive drainage maintenance.

Utilities Chairman Daniel “Doc” Satterlee surmised that up to 15,000 individual systems are in violation, including the one at his house.

“This has to stop,” Satterlee itemized the benefits of a comprehensive, integrated system instead of “a patchwork of craziness…(and)…MoDad treated sewer.”

Satterlee on East Bank Sewer: Why this time will be different

Satterlee noted that Ascension has “invested nearly $20 million” installing sewer pipe along two major state highways (42/73), a DOTD requirement whenever road improvements are undertaken.  There’s also a $60 million, .95% interest DEQ loan available to pursue the massive project.

Sooner or later, according to William Daniel, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will place Ascension under a Consent Decree mandating sanitary sewer, concluding:

“Putting sewer in today, while it may be painful, is much less painful than the alternative.”

If EPA swings the regulatory sledgehammer it will double, maybe triple the cost according to Daniel.