BGR: water issues won't be adequately addressed by millage - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports, Social

BGR says water issues won't be adequately addressed by millage increase

New Orleans, La. - The massive water main break comes just seven months after the sewerage and water board won a rate hike, that could see a doubling of fees in eight years.

But a watchdog group says a relatively small amount of that money will go toward fixing water line problems.

When New Orleans streets flood, usually the water falls from the sky...but not this time. " It was poring out of the ground," said Cohn St. resident Allen Dalton, as he watched his Chrysler get partially sucked down the hole..

"You leave your car parked out on the street," Dalton said. "Come out and find your car in a 5 foot hole, with water gushing out of it, it's ridiculous."

The Cohn Street water main break, is an example of a major problem with New Orleans water pipes. A problem which Frances Swigart documented and reported in mid- May, when she noticed water seeping from the middle of Spruce Street, near the break.

"I asked them to call me after they investigated the issue, and they said no, they didn't do that." Swigart said.

The water rupture occurred a full 7 months after the city council approved a doubling of sewerage and water rates over the next 8 years.

"We haven't got a lot of that in yet," said Joe Becker with the Orleans Sewerage and Water Board.

"But in future years, we think we will get a lot of money in to address many of the repairs we ought to make."

But the Bureau of Governmental Research takes a different spin.

"The part getting the least amount of investment is the water system and that's the part that drives everybody crazy," said Janet Howard, with B.G.R.

The bureau says the current  plan calls for relatively little spending on water line repairs. "The capital plan calls for $284 million investment in that system through 2020, but the need is $3.2 billion.'

B.G.R. says those repairs will leave the city way short. "'The estimate is it will reduce the leakage from 60 % to 50%, the average nationwide is 15 %," said Howard.

Most of the money for water repairs over the short term will be federal money with New Orleanians paying very little, in spite of the water fee increases. "Only $54 million is local, $230 million is federal," said Howard.

With a third of the city now under a boil water order, Frances Swigart says all this could have been avoided.

"Did you ever see anybody come out?" Fox 8 asked her. "no", she said. Fox 8:"Sid you see any evidence of anybody coming out?" She said, "No."

Now the sewerage and water board has major repair work to deal with.

Joe Becker said, "We're not going anywhere until we get the pipe repaired."

Allen Dalton says he's not going anywhere either, in spite of a totalled car. "I was born and raised here, you take the good with the bad," he said.

He's just glad, the bad, wasn't any worse.

We spoke to Sewerage and Water Board Director Marcia St Martin about the history of seepage near Cohn Street. She says she wasn't aware of any complaint being filed back in May, but she said every complaint is investigated.

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