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State orders sewage pond operator to clean up act

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WALKER - Tucked away in a neighborhood off Hwy 447 in Livingston Parish is a pond system where raw sewage is dumped and treated. A notice screwed to a post, feet from the pond says, "Hunting, fishing, trapping or trespassing for any purpose is strictly forbidden."

There are 18 houses along Pen Drive in Walker that use this sewage service. John Albin's home is right next door.

"You tell me what it is, it's a hole full of sewage is what it is," he said.

TESI or Total Environmental Solutions, Inc. calls the area an oxidation pond. The company operates 39 of these ponds that treat sewage after it makes its way from homes like Albin's.

"When you flush your toilet, basically it goes through the pipes and directly into this pond," said Albin.

TESI tells WBRZ the ponds contain biological units to remove the bad stuff, treat the sewage and release it into a ditch or bayou.

On a sunny summer day, the pond is stagnant. A closer look reveals toilet paper, trash, and other items covered with duckweed. There is fencing on only one side of the pond. Albin says over the decades he's lived next to the pond, it's progressively gotten worse.

"It smells pretty bad," he said. "You can kind of get a taste of it right now."

In May 2018, the Louisiana Department of Health paid a visit to the oxidation pond next to Albin's home. It cited a number of violations of the Louisiana Sanitary Code for not maintaining a properly functioning sewage system. The state recommends it be replaced or given a major overhaul, including dredging.

TESI, responding to those violations, says it's aware of the state's concerns. It says fencing and vegetation will be addressed by November, however, the company says sludge removal could take up to two more years. DHH says that response is insufficient. The state says it mailed a final notice of violations to TESI last week regarding the Pen Drive oxidation pond. DHH says TESI has 30 days to fix all the violations or it could lead to further legal action and fines.

In 2000, TESI entered into a consent decree requiring upgrades for many of the facilities and was given until 2020 to be fully compliant. The state says the reason TESI was given that much time, is because the company purchased these sewage facilities in bad shape. The decree was modified in May 2017 by the U.S. Dept. of Justice, the EPA and the Louisiana DEQ after hundreds of violations were logged.

The state is giving TESI 30 days to correct all violations at the Pen Drive facility. Not making corrections can result in fines of $100 a day, per violation.


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