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Wastewater may not be the first thing that comes to mind on Valentine’s Day, but for the Mandeville City Council, it was the first order of business at its Feb. 14 meeting.

The council approved the annexation of 285 acres of marshland into the city, raising questions about whether the area is being used for the release of partially treated wastewater, a process known as wetlands assimilation used to rebuild marsh.

Christi Trail, executive director of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, spoke at the meeting about the group’s concerns over wetland assimilation and its use in the annexed land.

“Based on our review of the permits, we are not clear if they are permitted to use the 285 acres,” Trail said.

However, City Planning Director Louisette Scott said the land is part of a much larger tract that was bought by the city in 2007 for wetlands assimilation.

Mandeville has a state permit to discharge partially treated wastewater into the Chinchuba Swamp and the East Tchefuncte Marsh.

While the city annexed most of the land, this portion had been left out, she said.

The Save Manchac Coalition also raised questions, sending a letter to the City Council asking it to preserve the property from receiving wastewater effluent.

Wetlands assimilation's ability to restore wetlands was overstated, Kim Coates, president of the Save Manchac Coalition, said in the letter.

She said that the area in question would likely result in drainage into popular areas of the Tchefuncte River commonly used for fishing and water sports.

Wetlands receiving a continual discharge of wastewater have the potential to increase health risks to humans and animals, Coates said.

“We are, therefore, opposed to the uses of natural wetlands for this purpose and especially opposed to relaxed permit levels allowed for treatment facilities discharging into natural wetlands."

This isn't the first time the city’s wetland assimilation project has become a topic of debate. In October 2017, the city applied to renew a five-year permit on the program as well as raise the threshold for the total number of solids floating in the wastewater. The Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation was among those raising objections.


Follow Sara Pagones on Twitter, @spagonesadvocat.