MANDEVILLE- Incompetence, ineptitude and mismanagement.
Those are the words an area state representative is using about the parish-run utility company that services his neighborhood. It comes after Paul Hollis, R-Mandeville, says he experienced the 13th sewage leak in his front yard this year.
Cell phone video of Hollis' front yard shows liquid flowing up from a manhole that reads 'sewer' as well as from a clean-out pipe, filling his and his neighbors' culverts. He says it's raw sewage.
The parish says the cause is from a back-up at his neighborhood's lift station, which pumps sewage to a nearby treatment plant. There are 200 lift stations across St. Tammany. The parish says when the back-up occurred, an alarm went off that is supposed to alert residents to call in the problem, but no one did.
"The departments that oversee this, to call them inept, that's certainly not an exaggeration," he said. "At this point, years later, after many many complaints, with many people at different levels, to have to endure this with the amount of taxes that we pay, it's beyond ruffling feathers."
That department is St. Tammany Parish Environmental Services. When Hollis shared his frustrations on Facebook about them, many residents from across the parish chimed in with their own similar experiences of sewage and water woes with the parish that resulted in dissatisfying resolutions.
"You're talking about something that is exceedingly dangerous and I'm just convinced that their cavalier attitude in trying to resolve the problem is systemic and it needs to stop," said Hollis.
But Tuesday, a new pump to handle a larger capacity was being installed in the lift station in Hollis' neighborhood. It's something the parish says just happened to be ready for work now after it was set in motion following Hollis' last complaint in October.
"When it's in your neighborhood, it's on your street, nothing ever happens quick enough," said St. Tammany Parish Spokesman Ronnie Simpson. "Can we do better? Sure we can do better. We can always do better. And we're going to continue to do that and continue to make improvements, not only to our infrastructure, but our process."
That includes the parish installing a trial auto-call system on the lift station in Hollis' neighborhood to alert them directly to any issues, instead of waiting for a neighbor to call. In the meantime, the parish is asking neighborhoods to be aware of their lift stations and when the alarms go off, so a call can be made to get the issue fixed quickly before it grows.