Scotlandville sewer plant buyout plan deferred

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - It's a battle that is years old and the next step will have to wait at least two more weeks.

After an hour-long debate from neighbors, parish leaders, and lawyers, the East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council put the matter off.

At issue: the sewer plant in Scotlandville and what neighbors who live there have been dealing with for years.

"You will smell human waste. You will see sewer flies flying around the community," said Greg Mitchell, who lives in Scotlandville.

A federal lawsuit claims that even after 20 years of oversight, the Capital City continues to violate the Clean Water Act with sewage discharge and overflow, some of that ending up in people's homes and yards.

About 10 years ago, the city and Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, came to terms.

"Making sure our water discharges are in compliance with the EPA. We're making sure that the secondary and primary treatments of our sewer and wastewater is in compliance with the Clean Water Act," said council member Ulysses Addison.

But in April, the Louisiana Environmental Action Network, LEAN, filed suit alleging Baton Rouge was not complying with the Clean Water Act and still had sewage discharge and overflows. Addison said the city fell behind on their compliance contract, which is set to expire in 2014. Now, city leaders have asked for a three year extension to 2017. Part of the new settlement includes a buyout of about 44 homes and some empty lots in Scotlandville.

"With that, they are asking us to buy the residents out and create a buffer zone and a $6 million figure has been thrown around by the Department of Public Works," said Addison.

That $6 million would go to buying those homes, relocation fees for the dozens of families and tearing down the houses to build a buffer zone around the plant. William Daniels with the mayor's office said each home would be appraised at a fair market value. On average, around $50,000 plus more than $20,000 for relocation fees. But factor in property and home value in East Baton Rouge Parish, and residents said it's not enough money. Some said, a buyout is too little, too late.

"We are having a hard time. Now I have respiratory problems," said Mitchell's mother.

"It's not an easy thing to live with when you wake up at night coughing because you inhaling a foul odor," said a speaker at the meeting.

The $6 million figure is only an estimate, the actual number could be higher or lower. If approved, the money will come out of the sewer fees that East Baton Rouge Parish residents pay monthly.

The Council has deferred the item by two weeks to December 12th.

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