- Associated Press - Monday, May 19, 2014

SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) - A federal judge has signed off on a plan that requires Shreveport to upgrade and repair its sewer system and pay penalties. The judge found the city had violated the federal clean water standards and state permits after raw sewage discharged from the city’s sewer system.

Shreveport, the U.S. Justice Department and Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality negotiated the consent decree, or settlement, for months before U.S. District Court Judge Elizabeth Foote signed the order finalizing the plan last week.

The Times reports (http://bit.ly/1mMUlcn ) U.S. District Court Judge Elizabeth Foote signed the order finalizing the plan last week.

According to the decree, the city has until June 12 to pay a $650,000 civil penalty and has 12 years to repair its sewer system. Half of the penalty will be paid to the DEQ. The other half will be paid to Justice.

The city was found to be in violation after reporting numerous discharges of untreated sewage from its sewer system since at least 2005.

The city’s infrastructure has needed improvements for years, Shreveport Councilman Ron Webb said. “Everybody kept passing the buck.” Now Shreveport’s “back is up against the wall. I don’t know where we’re going to come up with the money.”

Barbara Featherston, director of the city’s water and sewerage department, said by email that the city budgeted the money to cover the penalty and it will be paid out of its operating budget. Water and sewer rates were increased last year to accommodate for the operational, maintenance and repair costs for its sewer system as well as the city’s water system.

The remaining funds will have to come from the second sale of 2011 general obligation bonds and from revenue bonds, Featherston said. The sale has yet to occur because the city’s administration and council disagree on whether to continue to contract Calvin Grigsby as Shreveport’s financial adviser.

Meantime, the clock is ticking on the repairs. City officials estimate as much as $350 million is needed to finance repairs for the system.

Failure to abide by the approved schedule to complete work, assessments or submit reports can result in additional penalties.

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Information from: The Times, http://www.shreveporttimes.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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