Newell: Rob Peter to pay Paul? S&WB can’t fix problems they have yet to identify and quantify​​​​​​​

Newell Normand
March 21, 2019 - 10:17 am

If you have a sinking feeling about Sewage & Water Board, you’re right on the mark.  More than half of the water treated by Sewage & Water Board is leaking into the ground.  The cost?  Millions!

Newell Normand spoke with H.J. Bosworth, a local engineer with, to try and get a handle on this.  Here are some of Newell’s HOT TAKES:

  • There are preliminary estimates of unpaid bills, that amount to over $134 million in unpaid (almost half the agency’s budget), and more recent estimates of $50 million.  In either case, it highlights the fact that those projections remain fluid.  It’s just another example of continuing problems at the Sewerage and Water Board. 
  • This is troubling in so many ways, and it is something that we recognize has been going on for so many years. 
  • A report came out recently that around 55% of the water is lost to leaks, and that accounts for almost 20% of the cost of running the system.  They can’t afford to NOT fix this situation.  This is diminishing returns every year.
  • There have been some reports that Mayor Cantrell is meeting with people around the state to try and get a greater share of tourism dollars, saying that would get the city off the state’s back.  As I try to look at the numbers, I don’t know that that’s a logical conclusion.  Not in my life time, not in my kid’s life time, and maybe not in my kid’s kids’ life time.  I just don’t like the representation that the city won’t be needy from the state in the future.  I just don’t think that will be the case.  Should we be grabbing money from other agencies when we can’t even get our own house in order? 
  • From a news perspective, the Sewerage and Water Board is the gift that keeps on giving.  There’s always a new story.  But that is not a positive thing.
  • New Orleans’ success is key to Louisiana’s success; there’s no doubt about that.  I’ve been very supportive of Mayor Cantrell, but here’s one really troublesome aspect of this story.  I do not understand why she would call The Advocate and complain about reporting on this story.
  • Mayor, you’re all wet on this one.  You have to be transparent.  Everybody wants to understand where we are; and if we don’t understand, we’re not going to understand how to get where we want to be.  It can’t be that you want to hide information.  Do you want to screw the state? 
  • Information is power, and we have to have all the empirical data to make a learned decision about what the best strategy is moving forward. 
  • There are some low-hanging fruit issues for the Sewerage and Water Board that needs to be resolved.  And what was revealed is that they continue to struggle to do so.  That doesn’t mean they’re not making any progress; and it doesn’t mean you, Mayor Cantrell, are to blame.  But what it does mean is that we have to continue to look at ourselves in the mirror and prioritize the issues we are presented with.  We should not be talking about killing a story, hiding information, hiding the ball, and not being completely and totally transparent.

Check out all of Newell’s comments below.


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