FOX 8 Defenders: Blighted Gentilly pool creates health concerns for neighbors

Updated: Nov. 29, 2018 at 9:32 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - “I call it neighborhood terrorists. He’s not using bombs or chemicals or anything like that. He’s using his pool,” James Miles said.

The Gentilly resident stressed concerns over his neighbor’s blighted swimming pool to City Council members in September.

“I don’t even call it a pool, because a pool is something you’re supposed to jump in and enjoy and have a great time. This is a swamp! A man-made swamp!” he said.

The pool in the 6200 block of Mandeville Street is secure, but beyond its tall fence walls, it appears dark, nasty and stagnant.

“The mosquitoes are unbearable. A couple of years ago we were supposed to do a party at my house in the backyard, and we couldn’t do the party because of the mosquitoes and everybody’s safety,” Miles said.

He cares for his elderly parents who were recently hospitalized and worries for their health and safety.

“I take a chance running my parents through my yard to the car to run them to dialysis. I take a chance to catch the West Nile or all those diseases that’s out there,” he said.

When he called the city’s 311 line to report the pool problem in mid September, he was told Mosquito Control could be out sooner than Code Enforcement.

“A guy from the Mosquito Control asked can he come over, come to my yard to throw fish in the pool. The fish are supposed to eat the larva of the, the mosquito larva,” Miles said.

It wasn't until a month later, that a Code Enforcement case was opened, according to the City's Blight Status website. Public records show the next day an inspector found the property in violation for an unclean and unsanitary pool. The inspector's pictures on that day show the pool was not maintained.

However, at a Code Enforcement hearing this week, the pool owner’s account was a stark difference. Holding up a jug of clear water, he said, “This is the water from the pool that I have here, and I treat it every month with this. I have fish in the pool.”

In the same testimony, Columbus “Chris” Price explained he’s not operating the pool as a pool because his recent medical issues prevent him from swimming.

“There’s no power on the fence or the swimming pool,” he explained. “Therefore, you have no operating filtration system,” a representative of the City told Price.

An unfiltered pool is a violation of the City Code for pools.

Meantime, Miles told the hearing officer mosquitoes are not the only concern for his family.

“Now, when I pick up a piece of paper in the yard, there’s rats. I found possums running through the yard,” Miles said.

Price said that’s not true.

“There are no rats, no possums, no animals, no mosquitoes in the backyard,” he said.

Ultimately, the representative for the City said it found Price guilty of the pool violation, assessing him the maximum $500 fine.

“And if the violation is not abated within 30 days your honor, the City would like to also recommend that a $500 daily fine be rendered. Also for the record, this is a repeat offender. We had six previous cases with one judgment rendered,” the City liaison said.

Two years ago in 2016, Price was found guilty of the same swimming pool violation. Again, a City inspector’s pictures showed a dark, stagnant pool.

Fast forward to this year, and the FOX 8 Defenders found the property in the same condition on two different days in the last couple of months. The hearing officer agreed with the City’s ruling and assessed the homeowner the max fine.

“It’s very dangerous to have an unsanitary pool,” she said.

Afterwards, Price told FOX 8 he's on a fixed income and can't afford what the City wants. Remember, he showed the hearing officer a jug of clear water, claiming it was from his pool.

When we asked if we could see the pool in person, he offered for us to stop by the next day, but when we did, he didn't answer the door. When we called him from outside of his front door, he told us it wasn't a good time. He said he'd call us once his pool is fixed.

Meantime, James Miles says by not maintaining his responsibility, his neighbor is putting everyone around him at risk.

“I pay my property taxes. I’m pretty sure everyone around here pays their fair share, but he’s putting people’s health at risk,” Miles said.

If the blighted pool owner doesn't clean up his pool by December 27th, the City will assess him a $500 daily fine.

The FOX 8 Defenders staffed with volunteers from the National Council of Jewish Women also field consumer complaints at 1-877-670-6397 or you can fill out an online complaint form.

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