More than 70 Uptown neighbors suing New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board

More than 70 Uptown neighbors suing New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - More than 70 Uptown home and business owners are suing the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board. They claim pile driving and continuous vibration from the Southeast Louisiana drainage project has caused significant damage to their properties.

"Broken foundations, sinking floors, cracked walls, vibration, noise, obstructed access to their homes some of these people have suffered these conditions for over two years," said Michael Whitaker, an attorney for the plaintiffs.

"What bothers me even more is what are the damages going to be like when they finish in a few more years," said plaintiff William Sewell.

The plaintiffs, including an Uptown church leader, claim the Southeast Louisiana drainage project has shaken their properties to the core causing major settlement and vibration damage. "At one point we had six feet of water in our church basement that just appeared and the structural engineers are telling us that this is directly as a result of what is happening with this SELA project," said Reverend Tom Watson.

At a news conference Wednesday, Whitaker pointed out foundation damage to a residential building at Napoleon and Freret. "Our engineers who are examining all of the homes of the property owners and business owners have indicated to us the foundation of this building is in failure mode," said Whitaker.

Meghan Burns lives there and showed us crack after crack inside her home. "Its just hard to be in the house it shakes," Burns said. "The doors don't shut properly, the cracks are just getting bigger and bigger."

Whitaker says they're not asking for the project to stop but they do want the cost of repairs and damages to be paid. He expects even more business and home owners to also join the lawsuit as the project continues.

Whitaker adds they don't have a dollar figure yet on exactly how much damage they believe the project has caused. But, they are suing not only for those damages but also for emotional distress, reduced property values and loss of income. Last month, three other uptown neighbors were the first to file suit against the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board.

We contacted the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board about the lawsuit. The Sewerage and Water Board released the following statement Wednesday evening:

“The SELA Drainage program will significantly reduce flood damages to residents and businesses in the Uptown area and is part of a historic infrastructure improvement effort that is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to better position New Orleans for the future. These projects are the result of years of hard work with federal, state, and local partners, and we are fully coordinating all of this work to ensure it's done right the first time.

In partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a SELA property damage claims process has been established in the event a property is determined to have been damaged during construction. Property owners are encouraged to visit to initiate the claims process or call the SELA Hotline at (504) 585-2450 for more information.

Our goal is to resolve damage claims quickly, fairly and in a cost-effective manner so that property owners may repair any SELA-related damages in a timely fashion and avoid prolonged litigation that could take years and be very costly. This claims process has worked well with other recent SELA projects where claims were resolved without the need for litigation.”

-Cedric S. Grant, Executive Director of the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans

Copyright WVUE 2015. All rights reserved.