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Neighbors complain N.O. water plant staining property with diesel smelling substance

This is a story from 2013.

EDITOR's NOTE:  This is a story that was originally published in 2013 and was updated on March 29, 2022 to add in a video that had gone away in the story. 

Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
Email: pmurphy@wwltv.com | Twitter: @pmurphywwl

NEW ORLEANS -- It's been a rough week for the Orleans Parish Sewerage & Water Board. First there was a boil order, and now there are complaints of sickening fumes coming from the east bank water plant and an oily substance landing on people's property in the Carrollton neighborhood.

'If you take your finger, you can see it,' said neighbor Johnny Wilson pointing to a stain on the hood of his pickup truck. 'It's a greasy spot. That's been coming for a few years.'

Wilson lives across Spruce Street from the water treatment facility.

He's says his vehicles, house and yard are dotted with a petroleum smelling liquid that's been raining down from the plant and taking the paint right off his truck.

'Everybody should know when you wash diesel, it's going to pull the paint off. This is what this is, diesel.'

Wilson said some days he can't even enjoy his front porch.

'If I feel like sitting on my porch to eat a sandwich, I'm supposed to be able to do it,' said Wilson. 'But, I can't come eat no sandwich on my porch and (the pollution) falling. I'm eating a sandwich with this in it.'

Neighbors also complain about a petroleum odor in the air.

Camilla Franklin lives a few blocks away from the plant. She recently asked the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality to test the air surrounding the water treatment facility.

'When you see what's going on here, what's landing, what you can visibly see, goodness only knows what your breathing in,' said Franklin.

Neighbors say they've complained to the Orleans Parish Sewerage & Water Board time and time again with no response.

'It's harming me, I believe physically,' said Wilson. 'It's harming me just by thinking about it, what it could be doing, what it could be doing to my family. I don't know what it's doing.'

'Who knows what's really going on because they're not transparent and they don't talk to anybody in the city and explain what's happening,' said Franklin. 'I want every detail of how that plant is run and what they're going to do to fix it and when.'

SWBNO responded to neighbors complaints in this statement late Thursday afternoon: 'On Sunday, March 3, a fire occurred in the power plant at the Sewerage and Water Board's power plant. This fire led to a loss of power at the plant and a loss of pressure citywide that resulted in a boil water advisory that began on Sunday morning and was lifted in the late afternoon on Monday. As a result of the loss of power from the fire our emergency backup power turbine was put into service from Sunday morning until late Wednesday afternoon. On late Wednesday our normal operating turbine was placed back into service. We are aware however, that our neighbor's concerns are specifically centered on the operation and use of our backup emergency generator. The Board has in the past and is currently in the process of evaluating and performing tests that relate to the environmental concerns of our neighbors and it is our intent to share that information with them in the upcoming weeks.'

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