Investigative Unit: Concerns raised over pump maintenance after floods
NEW ROADS- Dozens of homeowners who typically flood in a low lying area of Pointe Coupee Parish blame bad maintenance on a drainage pump, and a failure of their local government.
Those issues now have the attention of Governor John Bel Edwards who took a tour of the area for himself.
A pump is supposed to keep the Pecan Acres neighborhood dry. It broke during Hurricane Gustav, and the Parish paid out a multi million dollar settlement. The Investigative Unit learned that pump had a problem with the switch before the epic flooding we experienced weeks ago. Those residents call that inexcusable.
Dr. Monica Fabre's family home in the Pecan Acres subdivision is gutted again. She vividly remembers flooding during heavy rains.
"This is not the great flood of 2016 for us," Fabre said. "This has been 71, 72 73 every year. We get a few inches of rain, we're flooding."
The 300-home subdivision depends on a pump and a canal to get the water out. People there are tired. Their pleas for help caught the attention of Retired Army General Russel Honore. He was instrumental in getting Governor John Bel Edwards to tour the area.
"It was a positive visit," Honore said. "The governor now understands the dilemma we have here in New Roads."
Video was shot by a resident Tuesday night, of Governor Edwards talking to residents and listening to their concerns.
"This wasn't on my radar screen," Governor Edwards said. "I just didn't know. We're going to get to work and figure out what we can do."
Wednesday morning, Honore and a number of parish and city leaders gathered to talk about a game plan for preventing residents from having to toss items in the trash for the next flood. Among some of them, raising a levee along side the Portage canal that backs up to the subdivision and adding additional pumps to keep the subdivision dry. That could cost millions, and there's no guarantee it would work. This time nearly 60 homes flooded. During Gustav most took on water.
In recent years, Pointe Coupee Parish settled a lawsuit with residents to the tune of $2 million for not maintaining this pump on the other side of this chain linked fence. Now there are renewed concerns about maintenance after this most recent flood.
"This is a systemic issue," Fabre said. "What happened to us was a direct result of neglect by the government."
Maintenance logs obtained by the WBRZ Investigative Unit show there was a problem with a "switch" just before the flood. DPW Director James David wrote, "no company was called out to repair the switch on the pump in the Pecan Acres subdivision on August 15, 2016. I personally found and repaired a loose wire."
The logs also indicated a switch needed to be changed on August 11. But, it took four days to repair loose wires....which was done on August 15. Pointe Coupee Parish Police Jury President Cornell Dukes told us,he was unaware of the switch problem.. So we read him the letter from the Parish's DPW Director. Now, he plans on calling for an "after action review" at the next police jury meeting.
That's not soon enough for Fabre, who is now making it her point to speak up for the majority of the subdivision living below the poverty line.
"Government failed us on so many levels," Fabre said. "But I still have faith that government can come back and help us because now they're hearing our cries."
Currently the Police Jury is in the process of bidding out a project to raise the levee around the subdivision. Other options on the table include possible buy outs for residents in the area. The immediate concern is getting them a safe place to live until more permanent decisions can be made.
Governor John Bel Edwards released the following statement:
"I was disheartened to hear about the concerns of the residents of Pecan Acres," said Gov. John Bel Edwards. "It's understandable that they love their homes and want better for their community. This area has flooded more than a dozen times in four decades and that has to be incredibly frustrating. Now that my administration has been made aware of this area and the good people who live there, we will do all that we can to address their needs and help them for the long-term."