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|City makes headway with EPA decree|
The city of Monroe will tackle $17 million in wastewater improvement projects over the next year, which could help the city satisfy a consent decree related to its sewerage system.
The city has been under an Environmental Protection Agency consent decree for its sewerage system since 1997.
Justin Haydel, vice president of Camp Dresser & McKee in Baton Rouge, said recent meetings with the EPA regarding the consent decree have been very positive. The city hired Camp Dresser & McKee in 1997 to help resolve the matters stemming from EPA's consent decree.
Haydel cautioned the Monroe City Council that the proposed $17 million in additional sewer projects may not be all that is needed to fulfill the consent decree. However, he believes the city is on the right track and could be relieved of the consent decree in the near future.
He said there were five items the city had to accomplish to be relieved from the consent decree, which was signed in 2004.
"The city formulated an exit plan using our expertise of what EPA normally likes to see in this type of situation," Haydel said.
He said the city essentially has been working for the past 12 years to address EPA concerns. The city has spent approximately $108 million to address the problems, Haydel said.
"I can tell you that for the size of the city of Monroe, and the economic situation here, that amount is remarkable, and EPA recognizes that," Haydel said.
He said the efforts have paid off since the city only had two minor violations during 2007-2008.
Major renovations were conducted at the city's wastewater treatment plant and a new pump station was built at Sandifer Street. Other projects included replacing pipe along Sandifer Street; new pump station at Texas Avenue along with new pipe; and upgrades were made to the Hadley Street pump station.
Another project the EPA wanted the city to tackle entailed placing sewer lines in areas in which none existed, Haydel said.
"The city did have places that needed sewer lines here and there, so we came up with a list to equal the amount of money EPA wanted to see the city spend," Haydel said.
Another project the city needed to tackle to be relieved of the consent decree was to make its wastewater treatment plant in compliance to EPA standards.
"The wastewater treatment plant is now working fine," Haydel said. "There was some minor violations due to malfunctions of equipment, but that was not a problem."
"The city has been doing a lot of work over the years to address this problem," he explained. "It has spent a lot of money, and actually going out and replacing every foot of pipe in some of the sewer basins around the city, and doing whatever needed to be done."
Haydel said the city must focus on the infrastructure it has in place and maintain it so the problems that occurred before do not arise again in the future.
He said the EPA expects cities to have the tools and personnel in place to be proactive regarding any wastewater issues.
To do that, Haydel anticipates the city will need to have an annual sewer budget of at least $7 million.