Ascension solicits input on sewer plan

Ascension Parish officials hope to give information out and get some in return during a pair of public meetings this week regarding a proposed parishwide sewer project.

The first meeting will be from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center gymnasium, 9039 St. Landry Ave., in Gonzales. A second meeting will be held at the same time Tuesday at Dutchtown High School, 13165 La. 73, in Geismar.

Benny Johnson, chairman of the Ascension Parish Council’s Utilities Committee, said parish officials have been gathering information on a potential parishwide sewer project for the past 18 months.

This week’s public meetings will allow officials to share that information with parish residents, as well as to get input about what the residents would like to see happen.

The parish is faced with a number of streams and waterways classified as “impaired,” Johnson said.

As a result, state Department of Environmental Quality officials have warned the parish that it will have to begin treating sewage eventually or face consequences.

Addressing that issue, which has been largely ignored for years, will be both costly and time consuming.

Johnson said the proposed system — which would include installing a network of pipelines throughout the parish to funnel sewage to a plant near the Mississippi River, treating it, then dumping the water into the river — likely will cost about $750 million and take between 15 and 40 years to complete.

Parish officials are hoping to get input from residents at the two meetings about how they’re willing to fund the sewer system and how quickly they would like the parish to move on the project.

“There are a multitude of ways of fixing this problem,” Johnson said, “but none of them are cheap, and you can’t pay for them just through monthly fees. We have to subsidize it somewhere down the line.”

Ken Dawson, a chief executive assistant to Parish President Tommy Martinez, said part of the parish’s charm and what makes it so beautiful is its system of canals and bayous, which are home to alligators and crawfish.

“What really has defined Ascension Parish is being jeopardized now,” Dawson said. “What we have to do is understand if you want that same quality of life in Ascension that has been enjoyed by previous generations, you’re not going to be able to do nothing for them to enjoy that.

“If you want that to be protected, it’s going to take action,” Dawson said, “and quite honestly, it’s going to take action now.”