DENHAM SPRINGS, LA (WAFB) - The state has taken action at a trailer park it labeled a "public health threat" following a report by the 9News Investigators. Two state agencies have forced the owner to clean up the property.
For the last two years, John Williams has had a front row seat to what the state has documented as unsafe and unsanitary conditions. The evidence health department investigators found is just steps from his back door. Williams' backyard looks more like a pond. Some of it is rain water, he says, but a lot of it is raw sewage that appears to be coming from the Highland Village Mobile Home Park next door.
"The ground is so saturated," Williams said.
When the 9News Investigators visited in August, we saw busted sewer lines, uncovered septic tanks, and a purification pond that did not appear to be working. Williams and a parish councilman say complaints to the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) resulted in little or no action.
"The gentleman who owns the trailer park has been promising for two years to take care of this problem," Williams said.
The current owner, Donnie Gill, bought the property three years ago, but the 9News Investigators uncovered state records on the property dating back more than 25 years. The documents include a long list of alleged violations on the property. The inspector noted during a visit earlier this year that the conditions have not changed in two years. The reported concerns include untreated sewage overflowing onto the ground. According to the state, Gill is responsible for fixing the issues. In our first report, Williams said Gill had made him nothing but empty promises.
"It's always been excuses. I never had a dealing with him that he did exactly what he said," Williams said.
But something changed in the last month or so. Just on the other side of his property line is evidence of progress. "I'm grateful. When it first started I jumped and cheered, you know," Williams said.
The ground has been dug up and new piping is being buried from the front to the back of the trailer park. Local officials say Gill is taking the steps necessary to tie his septic tanks into the city sewer system. Meanwhile, the pumps in the oxidation pond appear to be working.
LDH says inspectors have made multiple visits in recent months and have requested corrective action. The state has also given Gill deadlines. LDH is requiring Gill to have the abandoned septic tanks and oxidation pond removed and filled by the end of January. He must also provide invoices from a contractor showing those materials have been removed from the property by the end of February. Once the work is complete, Gill must submit a Certification of Construction by the engineer on record.
"I'm glad to see something done because it's not only for my benefit, but the people who live here," Williams said.
Gill told the 9News Investigators last week he would meet us at the trailer park to share the steps he is taking to fix the problems there. Gill never showed up for that interview.