Article is taken directly from the St. Tammany News

By Chad Ruiz
Published on Wednesday, January 28, 2009 9:22 AM CST

Even after taking the brunt of 8-foot tidal surges from two back-to-back hurricanes last year, officials reported Thursday night Mandeville’s sewage treatment plant is still operating at optimal capacity.

Although the city’s wastewater treatment facility received its worst marks for last year’s annual audit in six years, Mike Curtis with Curtis Environmental Services said the numbers are still well below other cities’ averages.

Curtis presented his audit to the City Council at Thursday night’s council meeting.

He said cities are graded on a point system where seven categories of the facility are addressed. Categories like effluent quality, age of the facility, disposition of sludge, new development and operator training scored at or above average.

Two categories, influent flow and overflows and bypasses, each nearly doubled in points compared to 2007’s numbers. But it’s all relative, Curtis said, because Mandeville’s numbers are skewed thanks to the battering ram of storms that pelted the area in 2008. From a record-breaking rainstorm that dumped several inches of water on the city in less than an hour, to Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, many of the city’s streets were inundated with more water than the gravity-fed drainage system could handle.

That caused several sewer lines, that otherwise run properly, to overflow.

“Even though it was caused by the storms, ultimately it doesn’t matter to the Department of Environmental Quality,” Curtis told council members.

The city’s overall score was 134, the lower the better, which is still very good Curtis said compared to other cities that average between 150 to 250 points. Still, council members were concerned with the increase since 2007’s number was only 82. It makes sense, Curtis said when looking at the 2005 number of 133 when Katrina made landfall.

Overall, Curtis said Mandeville has a superb track record when it comes to wastewater treatment. After his presentation, the council unanimously passed a resolution detailing steps the city would take to continue and improve its sewage facilities.

The city is currently in the process of installing the parish’s first wetland assimilation project that will disperse treated sewage to depleted marshlands along its coast. When that is complete, Curtis said treatment plant numbers would likely improve dramatically.