Louisiana Water Inspectors at Work in Lake Pontchartrain Basin

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana, March 7, 2008 (ENS) – In an effort to ensure that Louisiana watersheds are better protected from wastewater discharges, the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality is conducting a thorough inspection of all potential dischargers in the Lake Pontchartrain Basin.

Field staff from around the state are making a detailed examination of all known, unknown and potential wastewater dischargers in Livingston, Tangipahoa and St. Tammany parishes.

The inspections began on March 3. Inspectors are checking for discharge sources and making sure each source has the proper permits.

The goal of the mission is not to find violators for enforcement actions and penalties, but to make sure the department knows who is discharging.

Lake Pontchartrain Harbor Club,
New Orleans (Photo courtesy
New Orleans Convention and
Visitor’s Bureau)

In order to protect Lake Pontchartrain and other watersheds, the first step is to assist those who don’t have the proper permits or are out of compliance with environmental regulations, said Chris Piehler, DEQ’s Clean Waters Program director.

“The department’s goal is to manage the state’s watersheds and to manage them properly,” he said. “We have conducted other watershed inventory inspections and found many restaurants, sewer systems, governmental buildings and other places that you normally wouldn’t consider to be environmental risks that were not meeting environmental regulations.”

“It’s not that these citizens were willfully disobeying the law or conducting behavior detrimental to the environment; most were simply unaware of the regulations,” said Piehler. “For sound water quality management, we must ensure that all dischargers are on the same environmental playing field.”

The Lake Pontchartrain Basin is a 10,000 square mile watershed encompassing 16 Louisiana parishes. The land use of the region ranges from rural to urban and is the most densely populated region in Louisiana, including metro New Orleans and the state capital, Baton Rouge.

It is one of the largest estuarine systems in the Gulf of Mexico containing over 22 essential habitats. The Basin’s topography ranges from rolling woodlands in the north to coastal marshes in the south, with the 630 square mile Lake Pontchartrain as its centerpiece.

Improper wastewater discharge is one of the leading causes of pollution to the Basin, and to waterways across Louisiana and throughout the nation.

In addition, nonpoint source pollution is the largest remaining type of water pollution that needs to be addressed in Louisiana in order to restore the designated uses such as fishing and swimming to impaired water bodies.

Section 319 of the federal Clean Water Act requires that the states develop a Nonpoint Source Management Plan to reduce and control nonpoint sources of pollution from the various types of land uses that contribute to water quality problems across the United States. Some of these categories can also be defined as point source discharges and may require a stormwater permit.

Louisiana officials have determined that agriculture, forestry, urban runoff, home sewage systems, sand and gravel mining, construction and hydromodification all contribute to nonpoint source pollution problems in Louisiana.

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