Stinky ditch makes Des Allemands residents crabby
Neighbors complain of a rancid smell coming from the ditch that they say on the hottest days worsens and wafts through the entire neighborhood.
Newly-elected Councilman Jarvis Lewis said he experienced the ditch’s smell when he was campaigning in the area.
“It is horrendous,” he said.
The ditch was the focus of heated discussion by the Parish Council after Councilman Paul Hogan and Councilwoman Carolyn Schexnaydre introduced an ordinance to force Parish President V.J. St. Pierre to follow through with the installation of a culvert to cover the ditch.
Hogan said he has been working on remedying the problem for the past four years and throughout that time has received little help from St. Pierre’s administration.
“I can guarantee you if that there was sitting in front of V.J. St. Pierre’s house, that problem would have been solved a lot longer ago,” Hogan said.
Last year, Hogan was finally successful in appropriating funds to cover the ditch and install a culvert. However, he said St. Pierre and the Public Works Department have refused to complete the project despite providing the initial budget projection for the 700 feet of covered culvert.
“Now when I bring the ordinance up, the Public Works Department said, ‘You don’t have enough money, it is going to cost more than that, it is going to cost $58,000.’ Go figure,” Hogan said.
Meanwhile, some longtime residents have been emptying out of the neighborhood one by one, according to Rick and Teresa Johnson.
The Johnsons own a 2-acre piece of land tucked behind a seafood plant located off of Old U.S. 90. R. Johnson, 65, has lived on the property since his father bought it nearly five decades ago.
“I’ve been here since 1968, the better part of my entire life,” he said.
After the Johnsons were married in 1991, T. Johnson moved into the Des Allemands home and the couple lived there for years without any problems.
Even when Bobby DeJean opened a crab picking plant on the property in front of their home, there was not a problem.
“When I first moved here he was just crab picking and it did not bother us, but when his facility burned down in 2008 he wanted to expand,” T. Johnson said.
The Johnsons said that they and other neighbors, including Keith and Miriam Matherne and Terry Dempster, who have since moved, expressed concern about DeJean expanding his operations after being granted a manufacturing M-1 zoning variance. That is when they say the problems started occurring. In addition to picking the crabs at the processing plant, Dejean now also boils crabs there. A pipe sticks out of the side of the tin building and drains directly into the ditch where the water sits.
“He rinses all of that crap down and it all goes into that ditch. It sits there and rots and turns into the nasty black crap that looks like oil,” Hogan said.
Kim Marousek, planning and zoning director, said her agency looked into the issue before and it appears DeJean is in compliance with applicable laws.
“We went round and round with that factory three or four years ago with every state agency and at least at that time he was in compliance with all of his permits that we were able to evaluate,” she said.
Despite being able to pinpoint the smell to the expansion of DeJean’s operation, Hogan said he does not have any ill will towards the seafood processor.
“It is nothing against Bobby and nothing against the business, they just need to take into account the quality of life of the people surrounding them,” he said.
T. Johnson said that some days the smell is so bad that her family cannot even go outside.
“It is horrible and smells just like that crab factory. We have spoken to (Dejean) numerous times and he gets irate and says he is doing everything legal,” she said.
The Johnsons’ neighbor, Linda Kelone, said she also has an issue with the stinky ditch. However, she has an added problem with erosion because the ditch has grown from only a few feet across to expanding further and further into her property.
“When it started it was a little bitty ditch,” she said. “Right now it is eroded so much that my son-in-law had to come and take my fence and tie it to the tree. (The fence) is about ready to fall in. It is only there because it is chained and tied.”
For her, there is only one way to fix the problems the ditch presents.
“I would like to see them put culverts and dirt on top of it,” she said.
That’s what Hogan expects the parish to do before the problem gets worse.
However, Public Works Director Sam Scholle said the bad smell would not be resolved if a culvert was installed.
“The ditch is septic. The problem with the ditch being septic is that there is not enough oxygen getting to the ditch. Installing culverts, in our opinion, will actually make it worse. There will be less oxygen getting to the ditch,” he said.
Scholle said while the parish is not prepared to cover the ditch, they are currently testing the water to find out what is behind the smell.
“We are going to test it for about six to eight weeks to prove there is some consistency to the problem and then we are going to make every effort to address the problem. But I don’t want to address it publicly if I don’t know exactly what the problem is at this point,” he said.
Scholle said the waste in the ditch is a definite health issue and does need to be taken care of.
“We are going to have to work with (DeJean),” he said. The Herald-Guide left messages at Dejean’s plant, but did not hear back from him regarding this story.
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