Mayor asks DEQ for Wastewater Plant investigation

Mayor Bob Morris has asked the La. Dept. of Environmental Quality to conduct a formal investigation into what has occurred at the Eunice Wastewater Plant since 2003.

Since January of this year he has contended something stinks and a violation notice, compliance order and notice of potential penalty received Friday causes him to repeat that charge.

DEQ records produced on request because of missing or overlooked files at City Hall add to his conviction.

Morris has asked the City Council to hold a special meeting at noon Monday to discuss what he considers an emergency relative to the wastewater plant and to air related legal issues.

The notice received Friday says an inspection by DEQ on March 27 showed the city had failed to comply to an order of Aug. 30, 2006.

That order, a month before the city primary election, never got to the City Council, according to Alderman at-large Jack Burson.

City Attorney Jacque Pucheu said he, consulting engineer Karl Aucoin and then-Mayor Lynn LeJeune met with DEQ and drafted a response outlining the city’s actions.

He said as far as he knows the city had heard nothing more from DEQ until the current letter.

Aucoin was not available Friday, according to his office.

DEQ asserts the city has failed to notify it of overflows, deficiencies in operations and maintenance, effluent violations and unauthorized discharges.

The environmental agency said complete correction is expected within 30 days unless a comprehensive plan is otherwise agreed to.

Civil penalties or failure to adhere to a compliance order can reach $32,500 a day.

DEQ advised the city it is considering issuing a penalty assessment and the city has 10 days to comment on the contemplated penalty.

The index of records provided by DEQ shows violation notices for either effluent or overflow regularly coming to the city essentially from March 2004 to March 2008.

In December 2003 the city installed equipment designed to correct problems which resulted in the last run-in with DEQ, a run-in that cost a fine of about $50,000.

How well that equipment worked and when is the subject of ongoing dispute between the city and the vendor, and Morris and Aucoin and Pucheu.

The city has received bids to replace some of the equipment, with plans to move to the next phase of upgrading the plant.

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