While wastewater is not a glamorous topic, it is the main reason that rivers in the Pontchartrain Basin and Lake Pontchartrain itself became polluted. Wastewater is water that has been used by humans and picked up contaminants through its use. Wastewater includes water used in homes and offices (including sewer), car washes and other wash down facilities, industrial water uses, cooling or heating water, and agriculture to name a few. In the Lake Pontchartrain Basin, tracking down sources of poorly treated and untreated wastewater (particularly sewer) has become an important part of cleaning our rivers and our lake. Those who live in the New Orleans area or other municipalities are fortunate to have wastewater collected and treated in large wastewater treatment facilities that clean the water to a high standard. While these large wastewater facilities can periodically have problems with the treatment plant and/or the collection pipes, in general, they do a very good job at treating large amounts of wastewater. However, these large wastewater collection and treatment systems do not exist everywhere.
On the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain, in rapidly developing parishes such as St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Livingston, Iberville, and Ascension, some large treatment systems exist, but many homes and businesses are responsible for their own wastewater (mainly sewer) treatment, using small, individual wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). Many times these small WWTPs are not functioning properly and can release contaminated water into the rivers. While one plant doesn’t release a lot of water, the combined effect of many WWTPs releasing contaminated water leads to the river becoming high in bacteria counts and low in dissolved oxygen levels. This is seen on many north shore rivers. So, while water quality in Lake Pontchartrain has improved greatly in the past 25 years, north shore rivers still feel the impact of the many sewage sources.
For over fifteen years the PC has assisted businesses and homes with these small WWTPs. We work with the plant owner to understand the parts of the plant and how it functions. We assess the plant to see if repairs need to be made and we guide the plant owners as repairs are made. Sometimes a wastewater treatment plant is not permitted properly, in that case we work with the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality’s Small Business Small Community Assistance Program to have the system permitted properly. Many times the Pontchartrain Conservancy will visit a plant multiple times and work with the owners to address the issues. This service is provided absolutely free.
To date, we have worked with well over 1000 commercial and 1200 home WWTPs. They are now functioning properly and not contributing wastewater to the rivers. With the WWTPs functioning properly, we have seen measurable improvements on at least ten rivers in St. Tammany and Tangipahoa Parishes. Also, the Bogue Falaya, Tchefuncte, and Tangipahoa Rivers were removed from the EPA List of Impaired Waterbodies for fecal coliform bacteria in 2008 because of this program. This means that these rivers are again suitable for swimming. Through this program, LPBF hopes to target every north shore river and decrease the bacteria counts with the ultimate goal of having the rivers removed from EPA’s Impaired Waterbodies List and become usable again by the public.
A wastewater treatment plant is like a car; it needs periodic maintenance and repairs to function at its best. If you have any questions about your individual wastewater treatment plant, please contact the PC Wastewater Technician, Ronny Carter, at 985-320-3062. For more information, please click the link to Wastewater Resources.