[StBernard] 4 Investigates: Sewage dumped near St. Bernard neighborhood

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Thu Nov 6 16:40:10 EST 2008

4 Investigates: Sewage dumped near St. Bernard neighborhood

10:39 PM CST on Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Lee Zurik / Eyewitness News

One Wednesday in October, just before noon, an Eyewitness News camera
recorded a pump truck for SDT Waste & Debris Services, pulling up to a
sewerage drain, less than 100 yards from a St. Bernard Parish neighborhood.

"That was an unacceptable site," according to St. Bernard Parish president
Craig Taffaro.

It's a site where SDT has been dumping waste since 2007, as part of what the
company calls an unwritten agreement it made with the parish's prior
administration. Taffaro said he wasn't aware of the alleged agreement until
last week.

"Without a written agreement, that's where we kind of get into that rub
again," Taffaro said. "One party believes they are doing what was okay and
approved of and another party questions whether or not it was approved and
who approved it."

What is clear is that over the past year, SDT has been submitting reports to
the parish showing each time it says a truck went to that spot and dumped.
The reports say the discharge was not monitored by a parish employee.

The unwritten agreement called for SDT to pay 10 cents for every gallon it
put into St. Bernard's system. But even with those pages of reports, the
parish says it has yet to receive a check.

When asked how much SDT owes the parish for sewage disposal, Taffaro said,
"We believe it's just over $30,000."

Taffaro says it is unclear if the parish sent SDT a bill after receiving the
reports, but he said they should have paid.

"From our standpoint, we would expect that if someone had an arrangement to
pay for a service, that payment would be made," Taffaro said.

Sidney Torres IV, the owner of SDT, said he will not do any further
interviews on camera with WWL-TV, but in a statement from his public
relations person, said, "The parish faxed an invoice to SDT this afternoon

The statement went on to read, "This was the first time SDT received an
invoice from the parish. As of today, SDT's account is paid in full."

But there are other questions about SDT and the site at the former Chalmette
Medical Center in St. Bernard.

Randy Shetye owns a property across the street. He said he witnessed many
times what WWL cameras captured last month: an SDT truck dumping its sewage,
then driving off and leaving an uncovered drain, a hose and a garbage can,
near some homes.

"The conditions are terrible to begin with, and when you add the garbage and
the stink, it makes it very difficult to work here," he said.

In his statement, Torres said "SDT is not the only contractor using that
station and most likely the SDT technicians opted to leave the hose and
drain in the condition they found it."

WWL's investigation does show that SDT is not the only company dumping at
the site. One truck was seen dumping sewage from the St. Bernard Sheriff's
Office, which Taffaro says is authorized to use the site.

Apparently the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality is aware of the
situation. Wednesday afternoon, before Eyewitness News could even ask
questions about this story, a spokesman, who was already aware of the
dumping, said the state agency didn't want any details, adding "This is a
potential enforcement action and we cannot provide comment."

Last week, Taffaro sent a letter to SDT, telling the company it could no
longer use the St. Bernard site. The parish has also cleaned the area.
Now, Taffaro hopes to clear up any more confusion between him and the

"I don't want this situation to keep an adversarial position between St.
Bernard and SDT," he said. "I hope these issues can be resolved so it
benefits St. Bernard Parish."

A few other sewage-hauling companies contacted by Eyewitness News said they
had agreements with St. Bernard, prior to Hurricane Katrina. Every time
they dumped sewage, a parish employee was present, to write a dump ticket
for their records for the state Department of Environmental Quality, and for

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