Metairie sewer main line break causes concern

Updated: Mar. 25, 2021 at 4:38 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - For more than 30 hours, discolored and smelly sewer water has spewed into the West Napoleon Avenue Canal in Metairie.

Jefferson Parish officials say 90 percent of the effluent is freshwater from recent rains but environmentalists are concerned.

Parish officials waited for the pressure from that main break to subside before they can get in and make a temporary repair.

In the meantime, thousands of gallons poured directly into the West Napoleon Avenue Canal, which will eventually wind up in Lake Pontchartrain.

It is a smelly mess that began dumping untreated sewage and rainwater onto West Napoleon Ave. and business parking lots at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

“We had a car blocking in the parking lot so no one could walkthrough. This side was fine no one had to get in it too bad,” said Justin Manale, who works in a business near the leak.

Parish officials blame thousands of gallons of rainwater, which infiltrated the sewer system for the break In the 66-inch force sewer main pipe. It is just a small portion of nearly 100 miles of force sewer mains underneath Jefferson Parish.

“Our teams are going to work through the day and try and bypass some of the sewer systems away from this area and get it to the other treatment stations to minimize what’s going through here,” said Jefferson Parish President Cynthia Lee Sheng.

Parish officials estimate about 10 percent of the liquid now flowing into the West Napoleon Canal is actual sewage. It has continued to gush from a 6-foot geiser most of the day creating a waterfall on the canal bank that will eventually be pumped into Lake Pontchartrain, through the suburban or Sonniat canals in an untreated state.

“First and foremost this is non-disinfected waste material, so pathogens are always a concern whenever you have untreated sewage,” said Brady Skaggs, with the Pontchartrain Conservancy.

The Pontchartrain Conservancy advises people not to swim in the lake on the Southshore. They say they will be testing the lake next week to see if there was any impact from the force sewer main break.

“It is theoretically being diluted with rainwater because of the excess rainwater but there is no way to treat the water because there’s no physical way to get it to a treatment plant,” said Mark Drewes with JP Public Works.

“It’s a great time to remind everyone not to flush ‘flushable’s’ down the toilet since those backup lines and cause a lot of damage,” said Skaggs.

The parish says it notified the department of environmental quality as they wait for the pressure to go down to a point where they can get in and make a temporary repair, and stop the outflow of thousands of gallons of untreated sewage now pouring into the canal.

This force main broke back in February during a freeze and was patched. Parish President Cynthia Lee Sheng says this is a function of an old system. They say once the pressure goes down they will try and make the repair during the early morning hours to avoid impacting Metairie residents. They say they will have to shut down about 30 lift stations in the area while the repair is made, but they hope impacts will be minimal.

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