Some residents around the North Baton Rouge Waste Water Treatment Plant will get their first look at whether their homes are included in a proposed buyout plan at a public meeting Thursday night.
East Baton Rouge Parish officials will present the city-parish’s plan to buy 47 homes around the treatment plant.
“It just makes it better for everyone,” William Daniel, interim Department of Public Works director, said of the plan to buy out the homeowners.
Beyond the buyout, there are also plans to make improvements to the treatment plant itself, as well as plans to reduce the foul odor coming from the facility, Daniel said.
“We think when we ultimately make the improvements, there will be very little odor from the plant,” he said.
For years, residents in the neighborhood have complained about odors coming from the treatment facility. In December, residents lost a lawsuit in which they tried to force the city-parish to buy out their homes.
However, since then, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the city-parish have been talking about the possibility of moving forward with those buyouts anyway.
“This could be possibly the first of indication of whether their house is included or not,” Daniel said about Thursday night’s meeting. “It’s always been our goal to do something out there and buy some of those folks out.”
However, a lack of money has been an issue, he said.
The plan to move forward with the buyouts hinges on whether EPA will agree to a three-year extension for the city-parish to complete federally required sewer system improvements.
There’s approximately $1.3 billion worth of projects in the program that need to be completed by Dec. 31, 2014.
An extension would allow the Sanitary Sewer Overflow program — funded with a half-cent sales tax and sewerage user fees — to pay for the buyouts without jeopardizing the integrity of the program, Daniel said.
Although the city-parish made the extension request earlier this year — before the buyout discussions began — no decision from EPA has been made, he said.
The city-parish public meeting will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday at the East Baton Rouge Parish Recreation and Park Commission Mills Avenue Facility, 424 Woodpecker St.
To try to spread the word about the meeting, flyers were hung on residents’ doors and left at neighborhood churches and stores, Daniel said.
Information at the meeting will include which houses the city-parish is proposing to purchase, the results of an odor study that was used to determine which properties should be purchased and what the overall project will look like when its completed, Daniel said.
The meeting will also be a chance for residents to give the city feedback on how the plan can be tweaked or adapted, Daniel said.
“We’re there to listen and learn as well,” Daniel said.
After the public input is incorporated into the plan — and if the EPA approves the extension — then the plan will go to the Metro Council for approval.
If the council does approve the plan, improvements and buyouts could move forward very quickly, Daniel said.
Part of the plan would involve tearing down homes that are purchased and planting a variety of trees.
Some of the trees will help absorb excess odor from the treatment facility while others will provide a barrier from wind-carried odors.
Having this kind of buffer area is something that many good treatment facilities already have, Daniel said.