SHREVEPORT, LA. (KTAL/KMSS) — Shreveport’s water and sewerage system has undergone a series of issues and failures ranging from water boil advisories to low water pressure and most recently odorous water tap water.

During the citizens bond commission meeting Thursday, Shreveport’s Water & Sewer Department (SWSD) listed a host of challenges including 60-year-old pipes to sinkholes across the city at the latest committee meeting in hopes they present it to the city council.

“It gives me nightmares.”

“You don’t want us to have the kind of situation they’re having in Jackson [Mississippi]” said The City of Shreveport’s Chief Administrative Officer, Tom Dark.

Problem one: Replacing a 60-year-old deteriorating intake structure connected

There’s only one existing intake structure that takes raw water from Cross Lake and feeds it to the Amiss Water Treatment Plant (WTP).

It’s over 60 years old, deteriorating, and provides water for the entirety of Shreveport.

On their website, they state, “Our sewer system is old and has deteriorated over time. Parts of it are undersized and in poor condition. Some of the pipes leak due to corrosion from sewer gases, cracking or breaking from shifting soil, or even stress from blockages within the pipe. These issues have caused sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs) to occur throughout our city. When this happens, untreated sewage can be released onto the ground or into waterways.”

Problem two: Significant structural deterioration inside Amiss WTP

We cannot work in our building” and they’re “afraid to open them [the pipes] because they’re so old, they may not close,” said the Director of the SWSD, William B. Daniel.

Most of Shreveport’s pipes are well beyond their useful service life. SWSD said the average lifespan of their pipes is 30 years but Shreveport’s pipes are over 60 years old and leaking gallons of water.

“For the water, we have almost 1,164 miles of transmission and distribution mains. All of the water we make comes from Cross Lake and is treated at the Amiss Water Treatment Plant.”

Problem three: Repairing the transmission mains that provide drinking water to ~60% of the city

The 24-inch transmission lines that run parallel to each other are leaking and need replacing.

Problem four: Replacing 70-year-old valves

Amiss WTP opened back in 1930. SWSD Superintendent of Customer Service, Karena Thomas, said around 10 -12% of the valves are past their lifespan.

There are numerous valves at ‘the end of their useful service life’ ranging in size and need replacement at the WTP.

“We have some critical projects if they’re not done, they’re going to cause an awful lot of operational nightmares for the department and they’re going to interrupt service to the city,” said Daniel, “Our pipes are at the age now that any extreme weather – hot or cold – causes us a lot of problems.”

Problem five: Replacing the 1940s cement sewer pipes running 30-40ft beneath the city and residential homes.

He says the service lines are under houses, backyards, between houses, and connect out onto the street.

Picture this: Your neighbor greases their line, which affects four or five other houses, they can no longer flush their toilets and run their water. But the first person has bypassed those issues and does not want to fix the shared line because it does not affect him.

Daniel says this issue should have never happened but they built these lines in the 50’s and have to find a way to manage it.

But Daniel says, “We simply do not have the equipment and the manpower to do that.”

They have a plan to fix it and need the Citizen Capital Improvement Committee to consider it as a bond issue project.

Problem 6: Replace/improve the lift stations to provide reliable service

“They’re non-functioning because they’re too old and all the equipment is old,” said Daniel, “Or they’re too small in capacity and can’t keep up with the amount of sewer being pumped to them.”

The lift stations prevent septic conditions and unnecessary odor release.

He said in regard to maintenance SWSD spends $10K to $100, 000 on bypassing the sewer alone. The city has over 130 lift stations, and the project will provide these improvements to more than 20 lift stations.

Problem 7: Generators for the lift stations

The more frequent and intense storms caused significant damage and mass power outages. The lift stations do not have backup generators and need electricity to run.

What happened to the money from 2014?

Daniel said the sewer and water system is under a federal descent decree which was signed in 2014. The original descent decree was for a $350M upgrade negotiated by a different group of engineers.

However, by 2020 they spent over $500M to repair and upgrade the sewer system, and now they estimate they have 800M – $1B left to spend “to satisfy the federal government consent decree.”

In layman’s terms, it’s a formal agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) regulations under the Federal Clean Water Act (CWA). 

They are currently in the negotiation phase with the federal government and the Department of Justice over modifications to the descent decree.

“If they said it all had to be done within this decade nobody would be living here when it’s all over because there’d be nobody here to turn the water tap on,” said The City of Shreveport’s Chief Administrative Officer, Tom Dark.

There are four other projects that need to be addressed Daniel says he understands not all of them may be funded but hopes the most critical are.