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INVESTIGATIVE UNIT: Environmentalist faces potential fines for dumping raw sewage into waterway

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IBERVILLE PARISH - A man who has spent his career fighting to protect the environment was cited by the Louisiana Department of Health after inspectors discovered he's been dumping raw sewage into waterways near his home.

The dumping may have gone on for close to two decades. Records show a permit was applied for in 2004 for a sewer at the property, but no one followed through.

Last week, state inspectors with the Louisiana Department of Health paid a visit to Dean Wilson's home in Bayou Sorrel. Wilson is the Executive Director of the Atchafalaya Basin Keeper. It's an organization that has a mission to protect the health of the basin and its waterways for generations to come.

One of Wilson's workers, Monica Fisher, spoke to the Investigative Unit on Monday and said that the complaint to the state came from Wilson's ex. Fisher provided no evidence to support the claims she was making.

"You have an unreliable source who is trying to destroy our director," Monica Fisher with the Atchafalaya Basin Keeper said. "They are in the middle of a custody battle that is to be discussed at the beginning of February."

According to state inspection reports obtained by the WBRZ Investigative Unit, "PVC pipes connected to the home leading to an emptying into adjacent waterway. Raw sewage (toilet paper/waste) observed at tail line and in on banks/shallow side of waterway. Could not find sewer system at time of inspection."

Dean admitted over the phone to WBRZ that he does not have a sewer at his home and promised to get into compliance. Records show Wilson applied for a sewer permit in 2004 at that location in Bayou Sorrel, but nothing happened to finalize the permit and verify its installation.

Fisher refused to answer questions about whether raw sewage was good for the Basin. She said "thank you" before walking away from the microphone and camera.

Iberville Parish President Mitch Ourso said dumping raw sewage into waterways is not only illegal, but it's also a shock given Wilson's background.

"It's really ironic that this gentleman is a big environmentalist and so forth and 'save the trees' and all of this.... Really surprising to me," Ourso said.

Ourso said his inspectors showed up at the property Monday and also found raw sewage coming from the home.

"It's confirmed that he has raw sewer running from his house into a stream of water," Ourso said. "He should know better than that."

The state told Wilson he has until Feb. 5, 2021 to get into compliance or he can face stiff fines and penalties. Ourso said the parish will be following up.

"If he doesn't come into compliance, the parish will start the process of doing what we have to do. And he has the right to due process," Ourso said.

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