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By Joe Curtis

Sentinel Writer

The Village of Ridgecrest has been fined $91,000 by Louisiana Department of Health concerning the operations of its water and sewer systems.

Specifically, the state says the town exceeded the allowable total trihalomethanes (TTHMs) from samples collected from its water and a leaking double check valve assembly at its sewer treatment plant.

The announcement was made at Ridgecrest’s regular meeting Tuesday night where residents peppered aldermen with questions about the fines and its current water situation.

The fines originated from an on-site sanitary survey of Ridgecrest’s water supply on April 6, 2015 by a state health officer, according to Louisiana Department of Health documents. Additionally, a data audit was conducted for the purpose of determining any non-compliance with state drinking water regulations and standards.

While performing the survey, the state health officer found the average TTHMs collected from the water exceeded the maximum contaminant level during July 1, 2014 through Dec. 31, 2016, according to Louisiana Department of Health documents.

“The duration of non-compliance was 642 days with a max of $285 per day,” Robert Johannessen, Louisiana Department of Health communications director told the Sentinel Tuesday. “The bottom line is Ridgecrest was unable to comply with the maximum contaminate levels. Louisiana Department of Health expectations are Ridgecrest will work out a way to pay the fine and correct the situation.”

On June 1, 2017, Ridgecrest was ordered to repair or replace the leaking double check valve assembly and have it tested by the Louisiana Department of Health.

Ridgecrest was also ordered to grant access to Louisiana Department of Health officials to collect and analyze samples for TTHMs and Haloacetic Acids Five (HAA5) from two approved sites every 90 days.

Ridgecrest was ordered to submit plans to the Department of Health for control of TTHMs and implement those plans. A Louisiana licensed engineer was to develop and implement the plans within 60 days of the order, according to Louisiana Department of Health documents.

On a related subject, aldermen and attendees of the meeting were involved in a lengthy discussion about the possible tie in with Ferriday water system verses purchasing a new water plant in Ridgecrest.

Majority of attendees voiced their concern over the quality of water Ferriday would offer to Ridgecrest. 

“If Ferriday can’t pass their tests, and we tie into them, wouldn’t we be in the same boat,” asked Christopher Robin, a Ridgecrest resident.

Recently, Ferriday has made steps in improving water quality by installing aerators to alleviate TTHMs, said Keith Capdepon, engineer with Bryant Hammett & Associates. Ridgecrest also received a letter of commitment from Ferriday in 2018 stating it would supply water to the village.

Building a new plant in Ridgecrest would not be fiscally feasible, said Alderman Veller Ray Carroll, who once operated Ridgecrest’s water plant and is a state licensed Level IV water plant operator.

“If we build a new water plant it is going to cost Ridgecrest several million dollars,” Carroll said. “This is the cheapest and best way. All we got right now is to tie into Ferriday and hope for the best. The board went in the direction it is going now because it is not (financially) feasible to build a new plant in Ridgecrest.”

Currently, Ridgecrest has applied for a USDA grant/loan to fund the tie in with Ferriday, but a Louisiana Community Development Block grant is in the works, Capdepon said.

“Our general plan is to get the money obligated (from USDA) to tie in with Ferriday,” Capdepon said, and in “the meantime, apply for the community development block grant which is due fairly soon.”

Currently, Ridgecrest’s water plant is “making the best water we can,” said Mike McGuffee, operator with JCP Inc with disapprovals being aired from the attendees in the background.

“Iron content is zero and the ground storage tank is clear leaving the plant,” McGuffee said. “We are using a little more chemicals than we were before trying to coagulate (the settlement) and keep it in the ground storage tank before it gets to the filters because the filters are not getting a lot out (of the water).”

Later in the meeting, aldermen gave permission to McGuffee with the help of Carroll to flush Ridgecrest’s water lines June 19, 20 and 21. Flushing will be performed sectionally. If needed, the lines will be flushed again a week after the initial flushing and once a quarter.

“We will do as much flushing as we can without losing too much water,” McGuffee said.

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