St. Tammany parish is growing fast and has been for years. What used to be considered a rural destination away from the hustle and bustle of New Orleans now has a bustle all its own. And “rural” doesn’t seem like an accurate descriptor, anymore. Housing in the parish has skyrocketed in the last decade with most of that being single family dwellings. And, while this type of community growth and expansion is great for the local economy, it can often pose a threat to the local environment.
Typically, communities like those in St. Tammany are hooked into municipal wastewater treatment systems that pipe residential wastewater to an “off-site” facility where it can be treated and returned to use. However, as housing expands into new areas of the parish, the ability for an easily accessible municipal facility to accept that water, becomes increasingly less likely. This is where “on-site” treatment comes into play.
If you live in parts of St. Tammany parish, you most likely have what is called an Aerated Treatment Unit (ATU). It’s essentially a personal wastewater treatment system that’s located “on-site,” specifically – the homeowner’s yard. Instead of sending a home’s water to a treatment facility, it brings the treatment facility to the home. On the surface, ATUs seem like a relatively uncomplicated solution to a complex problem. However, if they’re used incorrectly or, even worse, not at all, they can add copious amounts of pollutive stress to an already overburdened ecosystem. The maintenance and expense they represent to homeowners who don’t understand their components or setup and the potential environmental impact that could result if they’re not functioning properly, can be understandably discouraging.
With this in mind, Pontchartrain Conservancy and St. Tammany Parish partnered in 2017 to form a program comprised of trained professionals that not only focuses on inspecting Aerated Treatment Units for proper function, but works to educate homeowners on the biology behind ATUs and what maintenance they can do to keep them functioning properly for years to come. All of which is free to the homeowner.
To date, we’ve inspected more than 1500 individual systems and helped to repair over 500 of these. St. Tammany has also secured a community block grant in order to fund the repair or replacement of systems without putting an undo financial burden on homeowners. The program has been in suspension, recently, due to the unexpected shutdown and uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, but we’re set to resume our efforts very soon with on-site inspections and homeowner education. If there are any questions about the program, we can be reached through our office at firstname.lastname@example.org or the St. Tammany government offices at email@example.com.