Struggling sewerage system plagued with issues

Published 2:46 pm Thursday, May 9, 2024

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It is no secret that the aging sewerage system in the city of Bogalusa is in need of many repairs. At recent City Council meetings, the mayor’s administration and council have echoed this sentiment, citing the sewerage system as a priority and impetus for quickly passing a budget that frees up spending for the parts and personnel needed to continue operations.

At the last public meeting on Tuesday, May 7, Director of Public Works James Patterson spoke to the council and gave some insight into the challenges faced by the department. He spoke to the lack of equipment, parts, and manpower stating, “We’ve been doing as much as we can under the circumstances. I need some money.”

In recent months, many of the system’s lift stations have failed, which unfortunately results in raw sewerage being discharged from them, often into nearby creeks and waterways. The station near Zesto’s on Columbia Street filled the low-lying area behind it with a smelly concoction of toilet paper, black water, and excrement. I first observed this leak on April 29, and it was being pumped out and repaired yesterday, May 8. I do not know how long it was leaking before I was alerted to the situation, but Patterson says that the pump has been mostly repaired.

At the end of East 6th Street, a lift station has been trickling into a nearby creek for several months. A nearby homeowner said that he has seen the city there on multiple occasions working on the problem, but as of today, May 9, the leak remains. The leak flows downhill into Bogue Lusa Creek, which feeds the nearby Pearl River.

Today, I observed a downed power line at the end of Avenue H that has been on the ground for at least three weeks. The line is hot, and feeds the nearby lift station which appeared to be working properly on May 9. Someone dug a hole to replace the fallen power pole and placed caution tape around the area, but as of today it is unrepaired. Patterson was not aware of the problem, but assured me that he would send someone out to look at it.

Disturbingly, four employees of the public works department have refused to go on record for the story, each independently stating their fear of retaliation from the city government as their reason for doing so. The consensus among them is that the system is being undermaintained, and that necessary parts aren’t being purchased in time to keep it operational. Some of these employees were veterans of the public works department, and they agreed that lack of funding and general mismanagement is to blame for the rise in recent problems.

According to these employees, the sewerage system is in worse shape than initially thought. The city is currently renting two pumps to keep things flowing at an estimated cost of $18,000 per month to the taxpayers. They have secured at least one of the needed replacement pumps, and it sits uninstalled in storage. The city sewerage system is based around 66 lift stations, and I was told that at any given time, at least a dozen of them are down for a variety of reasons.

If you live near a lift station, you will probably be able to smell it when it fails. Please feel free to reach out to The Bogalusa Daily News when this happens so that we can get a more accurate understanding of the scope of the problem. Failures may also be reported to the Department of Environmental Quality through their website.