Plaquemine building state-of-the-art sewer plant

Advocate file photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND -- Raw sewage from the city of Plaquemine and all of Iberville Parish arrives at South Wastewater Treatment Plant via pipes. Plaquemine plans to begin construction on a new, $12 million plant next month. Show caption
Advocate file photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND -- Raw sewage from the city of Plaquemine and all of Iberville Parish arrives at South Wastewater Treatment Plant via pipes. Plaquemine plans to begin construction on a new, $12 million plant next month.

Mayor says rates won’t rise to pay for construction

Construction on a $12 million state-of-the-art sewer plant in this city could begin as early as this week, according to city officials who say the current plant has long been inadequate.

“We’ve been working on this for 10 years now,” Mayor Mark “Tony” Gulotta said.

Gulotta said the existing plant, built in 1960, was built to treat about 1 million gallons of wastewater a day but has been taking in more than 1 million gallons a day for some time.

“We’ve got too much coming in at one time and it just wasn’t built for that,” he said.

The new plant will be built outside the city limits on 17 acres of land in a cane field along La. 1 that the city purchased a few years ago.

The city is using about $6 million in Hurricane Gustav Recovery Funds to pay for the project with the remaining costs financed by a 20-year, low-interest loan from the Department of Environmental Quality.

The new sewer facility will only take up approximately six acres of the undeveloped land leaving room for future expansion and growth.

“The current plant is located in the city so it’s landlocked,” said Tony Arikol, of Professional Engineering Consultants. “We’ll easily be able to expand the new plant to take up to 6 million gallons per day if the city wants.”

Arikol’s firm designed the new sewer facility, which is to be built by Tullier Services Inc.

Arikol said the new sewer plant will be more energy efficient. It also will be more environmentally friendly for the city, he said, because treated wastewater will be discharged into the Mississippi River rather than Bayou Plaquemine.

Officials said the new treatment plant will take about 14 months to build.

Upon its completion, the existing plant on W.W. Harleaux Street will be converted to a lift station that will move untreated wastewater to the new plant.

Gulotta said sewer user rates for the 5,000 households served by the city won’t be going up to pay for the project.

“That was a big struggle for us: to build a new plant, pay for it ourselves, without having to increase (user) rates,” he said.

On average, the mayor said, customers pay $22 per month for sewer service.

Plaquemine annually collects about $970,000 in residential sewer fees. The city spends approximately $1 million annually on residential wastewater treatment.

“You’re lucky to break even,” Gulotta said. “This new plant is going to make it cheaper for us to treat more sewage at the same costs.”