La. 405 trailer park operator cited with sewage violations

Deidre Cruse, Governmental Reporter

The state health and environmental quality departments have cited the owner of the recently-vacated Scavonne Mobile Home Park for operating for 30 years without sewage treatment or wastewater discharge permits, Iberville Environmental Manager John James Clark said Monday.

Residents of some 25 mobile homes produced an estimated 300 gallons of wastewater a day at the trailer park on La. 405 (River Road) south of Plaquemine, Clark said, citing state Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) estimates. The 7,500 gallons a day adds up to more than 82 million gallons over the past 30 years.

“That's a lot of wastewater unaccounted for,” the manager said.

The wastewater flows into Bayou LaBoutte, which ultimately flows into the Upper Grand Driver, Clark said. It also could have affected aquifers along the Mississippi River, and the well water of the few residents not served by public water systems.

“Near the Mississippi, the groundwater level is really close to the surface,” he said. “There is a high potential that there may have been groundwater contamination from this set-up.”

Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso Jr. assigned Clark and Utilities Director Brian Berthelot to investigate a resident's complaint of open sewage at the site, which was served by an oxidation pond.

Clark said he determined that the trailer park has been operating for at least 30 years without either a sanitary wastewater treatment plant approved by the DHH or a wastewater discharge permit from the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

“The parish has shut off the public water supply to the site, so there should be no more discharge,” he said. “There are no more residents there.”

Subsequently, he said, DHH sent a notice of violation for operating with an unapproved wastewater treatment system, and DEQ sent a notice of violation for discharging into local waterways owner/operator Larry Rushing.

Clark said Rushing has agreed to comply with state regulations in closing out the oxidation pond and restoring the site to its natural condition, as a pastureland.

Rushing closed the trailer park to residents early this year, apparently in hopes of selling the land to one of the new chemical companies building plants in the area.

“They were under the impression it would be bought out, so they asked the residents to vacate the site,” leaving only the open sewage treatment system, Clark said.  (He said neither SNF-Flopam nor Shintech has purchased the property.)

“It presented a hazard to public safety and our environment,” the manager said. “Thanks to our intervention, it looks like it is going to be taken care of.”

Clark said more residents are helping the parish identify water quality problems now that Iberville has joined with West Baton Rouge and Pointe Coupee parishes in the Upper Terrebonne Water Quality Improvement Project, an effort that requires a large amount of public participation.

“We'd like to think because our parish president has taken a positive stance on trying to improve our local waterways...more people are coming forward with concerns they have and to help us identify problems,” Clark said.