MANDEVILLE- Dumping treated wastewater into the state's wetlands has not only been common in Louisiana, but actually promoted as a good thing.
Now, one environmental agency is reversing its position on the practice.
The natural habitat of the Chinchuba Swamp in Mandeville is thriving. City Public Works Director David deGeneres says that's because of a Wetland Assimilation project that's been in place for more than a decade.
It allows the city to clean its wastewater at a low cost and manpower level, then use that cleaned water to fertilize and strengthen the swamp and the East Tchefuncte Marsh.
"I think that we've proven that by looking at what we're here looking at today," said deGeneres, "It has helped the wetlands quite significantly."
That's why the city is renewing its permit with the state to keep the practice going.
At the same time, the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, which actually supported the creation of the system in Mandeville, is now asking the state to take another look at its program that oversees the Mandeville project and ten others like it around the state.
"We know that there are a lot of people who certainly have concerns, but maybe haven't taken a leap to where we're at now for a different policy direction, but basically almost everybody we've talked to has some concerns," said Dr. John Lopez, with the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation. "Even those that are still proponents acknowledge that in some of the projects there have been problems."
According to the foundation's studies, those include loss of marsh, instead of creating more of it, trees not growing as fast and wetlands staying flooded longer than usual.
Those findings are troubling to residents like Jean Champagne.
"The wetlands are in a crisis state right now and we really can't afford to experiment with it too much," he said. "We need to know that it's working."
The Basin Foundation wants to find a way to make it work.
"We want to help kind of transition those so that they work better or that they somehow switch to another process and we think there are some good alternatives," said Lopez.
The LPBF is scheduled to share its thoughts on the matter at the Mandeville Council meeting this Thursday at 6 p.m. at City Hall. Next Thursday, Oct. 19, the LDEQ is hosting a public hearing on Mandeville's permit renewal application. That's at the parish administration building on Koop Drive in Mandeville at 6 p.m.