[StBernard] Treated sewage considered to help restore wetlands

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Tue Sep 23 08:24:43 EDT 2008

Treated sewage considered to help restore wetlands

10:36 PM CDT on Monday, September 22, 2008

Bigad Shaban / Eyewitness News

What was once a strong first line of defense against hurricanes, is now
disappearing along the coast. On Monday, scientists met in St. Bernard to
discuss how to turn back the clock.

"In fact, it would be the largest project of this type in the world," said
Wetlands Ecologist Dr. John Day.

The idea is called 'wetlands assimilation,' and the plan calls for treated
sewage water to be pumped into the marsh.

"At that point it's no longer sewage," said Day. "It's treated. It's
relatively clean. It's disinfected so it doesn't have pathogens in it. We're
putting that water on the wetlands to help restore them."

The nutrients from the fresh water are supposed to combat the negative
impact from the salty deposits of the Gulf of Mexico.

"We have yet before now to have a comprehensive long term plan that everyone
at the table is now pulling the same direction," said Craig Taffaro, St.
Bernard Parish President.

But Taffaro acknowledges more needs to be done, like securing some $60
million in funding for the project

"We don't have any money in hand just yet," said Taffaro.

And the dozens of property owners that border the proposed site and stand to
be effected, still need to be contacted.

"Anytime you're dealing with private land, you have to get buy in from
private land owners," said Taffaro.

In the meantime, scientists hope to plant Cyprus trees along a small stretch
of land they've already secured along the coast, which ecologists hope would
also thrive off the treated sewage.

"Conceivably in a year, we could be beginning to discharge water," said Day.

Significant results in the rebuilding of the wetlands, however, could still
take several years.

St. Bernard resident Richard Childress says his community, already in the
midst of a serious recovery, can't afford to wait that long for a solution.

"That's too long," said Childress. "We've already waiting a few years, we
need something now.

Thanks to the state's share of oil and gas revenues, Taffaro says other
coastal restoration projects should also start up soon in St. Bernard.
While Louisiana isn't expecting that money for about another nine years,
last week Governor Bobby Jindal vowed to bond the funds out, allowing the
state to spend their share now.

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