Leaked taxpayer-funded agency faces $ 3 million water bill
The Lakefront Management Authority has tried to fix major water leaks for most of the past decade.
NEW ORLEANS – Shockingly high bills for sanitation and water services are nothing new to New Orleans, but no one has rarely seen something like the $ 3 million bill a customer received in October.
And, to make matters worse, the client is a taxpayer-funded public body, the Lakefront Management Authority.
The agency operates public properties outside of the flood protection system, including New Orleans Lakefront Airport, South Shore Port, and Orleans Marina. He’s been trying to fix major water leaks on airport property for much of the past decade, but even authority officials have been shocked to see $ 3,042,089 in unpaid fees on one. of its two counters.
He typically pays around $ 16,000 per month for the meter on the west side of the airport, which is listed at 0 Downman Road. But that meter showed nearly a million gallons of water used per day in September and October, triggering nearly $ 1.1 million in user fees for just over two months.
“The LMA has fixed many leaking pipes in recent years and has limited resources to tackle the issues comprehensively,” said LMA executive director Louis Capo, adding that he would meet with Sewerage officials on Monday. & Water Board to discuss the fit. the bill and find better ways to monitor leaks.
LMA officials were unable to provide a separate bill for the water meter at 0 Hayne Blvd., which serves the east end of the airport and the South Shore Harbor Marina. But Capo admitted that it is also higher than normal. In 2019 and 2020, the authority was paying around $ 8,000 per month for this water pipe.
Those invoices already reflected some vanishing lines, according to records provided to WWL-TV in response to a public records request. In September 2020, the authority sent letters to the Sewerage & Water Board requesting an adjustment to its fees. The letters included photos and invoices showing the authority paid for repairs to the leaks on the Downman Road and Hayne Boulevard water mains, proof required for a sewer charge adjustment.
“Although we must hold our customers accountable for their water usage, the billing department is able to give credit for sewer charges caused by water leaks if the customer can demonstrate – via a plumber’s report or a contractor’s report – that the water did not go through the sewer system, ”the Sewerage & Water Board said in a statement.
“As we strive to do this with all of our clients, we are striving to find a way forward and get the Lakefront Airport / Lakefront Management Authority account in good standing. “
The Sewerage & Water Board had a number of issues with their invoicing software which produced incorrect invoices. The LMA said it was trying to determine whether the $ 3 million bill was entirely due to leaks or a combination of leaks and a billing issue on the S&WB side.
But there is no doubt that infrastructure problems persist at the airport and at South Shore Harbor, just east.
Almost immediately after the completion of a major runway repair and repaving project, a large sinkhole opened in a drainage pipe below the runway, requiring further repairs. Then a water pipe broke under Stars and Stripes Boulevard. Another water line ruptured under the South Shore Harbor parking lot, forcing the authority to use a pipe from a different line to deliver potable water to the harbor master’s offices.
And just over two weeks ago, on November 30, airport manager Chris Henderson emailed the companies operating there, notifying them of a water leak on the west ramp and of a sewer pipe that had “collapsed” in front of the historic Art Deco. terminal. The letter informed tenants of several aircraft hangars that their water would be cut off for several hours.
Repairs to the sewer line under the parking lot at the main terminal continued on Friday.
LMA’s board minutes show that the agency had to negotiate a settlement with Sewerage & Water Board in January 2012, to pay a bill of $ 325,000 after a series of leaks were repaired.
And almost 10 years later, the problem appears to be getting worse, with taxpayer dollars spent on repairs and unpaid water and sewer bills soaring to new heights.