Brou: Now is the time for panic

East bank water plant failure is imminent

The east bank water crisis ratcheted up another notch at the parish council meeting on Monday evening. At the meeting, Department of Waterworks Director Robert Brou told members in an impassioned address that C Plant’s failure “could happen tonight.”

Reacting to Brou’s speech, the council unanimously approved creating a special committee to handle the water situation for the east bank.

“The condition of C Plant is bad because the metal is delaminating,” said Brou, as he showed the council numerous slides of the decayed plant. However, Brou only showed the council what was above the water because the C Plant can only be shut down for 12 hours at a time.

This is creating a maintenance crisis, as only minimal projects can be done in that small window. Furthermore, Plants A and B cannot handle the full load. Brou said that the problem has been looming for years.

If C Plant has a cataclysmic failure in the worst-case scenario, Brou said, “They would have severely restricted water on the east bank; that would involve reduced flows, reduced pressures. That also includes fire flow,” which could hamper firefighting efforts. Rationing of water is also a possibility. “Everybody would just get a little less,” said Brou.

Not only would area homes feel the pinch, area businesses — the biggest consumers in the parish — would also be affected. “The plants and restaurants would have less water,” said Brou. “My first response would be to call all of the area industry on the east bank and ask them to cut back on water use, so I don’t run out of water.”

If a massive failure happened, Brou said approaching Jefferson Parish about a tie-in would be an option, but he cautioned that Jefferson runs on substantially lower water pressure.

When presented with all of Brou’s data and photos, Councilman Ganesier “Ram” Ramchandran balked at Brou’s bleak assessment: “There is absolutely nothing to panic about,” saying that the decay was common in clarifiers, especially if they had been maintained properly.

“The one thing that I would respectfully disagree with you on is now is the time to panic,” said Brou.

“We’ve done everything we can,” he said, reminding Ramchandran that C Plant only could be taken off-line for a short period of time.

C Plant is responsible for over half of the east bank water supply, producing 4 million gallon per day, while Plants A and B only produce 3 million gallons a day. However, DHH recommends that A and B only produce .8 million gallons per day. Brou said that this is something that can’t be done in the current climate, as the east bank averages 4.7 million gallons per day, creating a shortfall of at least 1.7 million gallons on average if C Plant were to have a catastrophic failure.

As for solutions, Brou proposed two to the council, a long-term and short-term solution. The short-term calls for $2.5 million dollar interconnection of the east bank and the west bank underneath the Mississippi River. Optimistically, Brou said that could be finished by July or August 2006.

The long-term plan would call for the construction of a new $12 million facility to handle the ever-increasing demands of the east bank. Brou hopes that the new plant will be funded immediately. If that happens, it could go on-line by as early as May 2008.

As for where the money will come, Brou felt that either millage or a rate increase would be two avenues to fund the projects.


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