With the turn of a valve, East Baton Rouge Mayor-President Kip Holden shut down the central sewage plant and put an intriguing property on the market in a part of town his administration has positioned for an economic boom.

The city-parish has battled sewage problems so long that there were people in the audience Tuesday morning who hadn't even been born when the federal government first commanded local authorities to literally clean up their act. By the time the improvements are finished, they'll have cost more than a billion dollars.

The decommissioning represents a huge step forward on sewerage improvements, officials said. Now, waste will be treated at two sites near Scotlandville and Gardere, streamlining the process and cutting down costs, Holden remarked.

The city will also have a chance to court a buyer for the plant's land, though Holden's chief administrative officer, William Daniel, said the matter will fall to the candidate who wins the upcoming mayor-president election. 

The plant is located a stone's throw from the Mississippi River, between River Road and Nicholson Drive, just south of downtown and near the Magnolia Mound Plantation. Like the Government Street corridor, it's an area the administration has sought to redevelop, but is still a work in progress.

The Water Campus research hub has begun to come online nearby; city leaders have invested in a proposed tram that would run between LSU and the Capitol; and researchers have held community meetings in Old South Baton Rouge and Beauregard Town about what kind of housing, business, and public institutions they'd like to attract.

Daniel said there have been talks of turning the old plant site into all kinds of facilities -- including a hotel, an office park and baseball fields. Whichever candidate prevails in the fall will likely make the call.

If all goes according to plan, the next mayor will also preside over the final upgrades required of the city by the Environmental Protection Agency.

In 1988, the federal government demanded the city-parish improve conditions at its treatment plants. In 2002, the order was expanded to require more work on sewer lines to prevent overflow during heavy rain or because equipment is broken down or insufficient.

In a related development, the city-parish is attempting to improve the next generation of infrastructure while making road and sewerage repairs. Early this year, the Metro Council signed off on a new endeavor to lay high-speed internet conduits whenever crews have to tear up ground to work on roads and sewers.

All told, there 114 separate projects involved in the sewer upgrade, of which 78 have been completed, 24 are under construction and 12 have yet to break ground, program manager Joseph Young said Tuesday. Many of the projects require the replacement of older pipes with new larger ones that can channel more water during rain.

"The system did the job that it needed to do" during the August flood, Holden remarked.

Though it wasn't designed for so much rain, the infrastructure was able to limit flooding to plant areas and not residential areas, Daniel added.

The local government has until the end of 2018 to make all the improvements required by the EPA, But Daniel said crews are running ahead of schedule.

The glut of work was originally supposed to end in 2014, but the parish successfully appealed for an extension, citing a number of factors, such as hurricanes. There was also a lengthy legal battle with residents who lived near the north treatment plant and complained of their living conditions that ended when the parish agreed to buy out certain homeowners.

The final piece, a non-mandated control system, is scheduled to come online in early 2019.

Follow Steve Hardy on Twitter, @SteveRHardy.