UNO Engineers Educate Jefferson Parish Residents on Clean Water and Sanitation Needs
The University of New Orleans Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering has partnered with Jefferson Parish to create a community outreach video about clean water and sanitation needs supported by a millage tax up for public vote later this month.
Parish residents will vote on Saturday, Oct. 19 on whether to renew an existing property assessment tax, known as a millage, which is designed to fund the water and wastewater treatment facilities in the parish and related cities. The community outreach video is designed to educate residents of Jefferson, Jean Lafitte, Kenner and Harahan, about ongoing efforts in funding, operating and maintaining and improving water and sewerage infrastructure in Jefferson Parish, said John Young, parish president.
Through the YouTube video, UNO experts educate parish residents on the importance of having a well-maintained water and sewerage system and the impact the infrastructure has on residents' health and environment of Jefferson Parish.
In light of recent news reports revealing a brain-eating amoeba in the St. Bernard Parish water supply system, the video takes on a special importance, says Bhaskar Kura, interim chair of the University's Civil and Environmental Engineering Department.
"As UNO is the only local University with a College of Engineering and Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, we are the most appropriate entity to do such a video," says Kura. "...It's our professional responsibility to educate the public on the role of public works—and the challenges that our region faces."
Preventing Disease, Protecting the Environment
University President Peter J. Fos, who has spent 40 years working in health sciences, public health, public health management and higher education and visited public health facilities around the world, kicks off the video by recognizing the importance of clean water and public health.
"From my experience, clean water and proper sanitation is the most important thing that we can have in a community, especially an urban community as we have here," says Fos. "Many, many diseases both bacterial and protozoan diseases are caused by contaminated water and improper removal of sewage."
Norman Whitley, dean of the College of Engineering, tells residents that UNO experts have worked for years with Jefferson Parish and others on the critical issues—and will continue to do so—to ensure they have the information they need to stay safe and make wise choices.
Kura, who also serves as the University's associate dean of engineering for program development and director of the University's Maritime Environmental Resources and Information Center. Faculty in his department teach and conduct research to advance environmental engineering and sanitary engineering technologies in municipalities around the world in advancing water and wastewater facilities to improve quality of life.
Recently, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), a highly respected professional organization, has become interested in the aging and failing infrastructures of the U.S. A scorecard created by the organization shows that Louisiana received a D+ in drinking water and a C- for wastewater.
"Without treatment, the water coming into our homes would contain a myriad of diseases, therefore it is a vital public work," says a voiceover on the public service announcement. "The millage not only funds the day to day operations of Jefferson Parish's water infrastructure. It also helps pay for improvements as well."
The video addresses impacts on home owner insurance premiums, health, safety and the environment. The tax is not a new tax--it is a new renewal, parish officials say, urging residents to vote in support.
The millage tax allows the parish to maintain the infrastructure, to make upgrades at plants, to borrow $37.5 million in low-interest loans and make critical capital improvements, says one official.
Lack of adequate funding due to failure of the millage could lead to a situation where Jefferson Parish is unable to meet current and future state standards for treatment of wastewater and removal—and face penalties from state and federal authorities.