Oct 102012

Sewerage & Water Board “work” on Freret Street. (photo by Jean-Paul Villere)

Jean-Paul Villere

Yet another rhetorical pop quiz from the Sewerage & Water Board this past Monday left Orleans Parish residents (read: me and likely you) wondering if our one and only water supply was safe for consumption.  And the solitary answer everyone can agree on equals “Maybe.”  Forget that it’s the 21st century, forget that Roman aquaducts remain a marvel to humanity and civilization on the whole, and forget too that over the next five years an Orleans Parish water bill will grow incrementally like a film of algae from a broken fire hydrant to the nearest street drain.  But remember this: your vote still matters.  And why this will always be important remains a let-me-speak-to-your-supervisor line of thought.  The S & W B does not answer to much, or do they?  So who’s in charge?

The city.  Kinda.  And therefore (y)our city government reps.  According to the S & W B website “The Sewerage and Water Board consists of the Mayor, the two at-large members of the City Council, one district councilman selected by the Council, two members of the board of Liquidation, City Debt, and seven citizen members appointed by the Mayor, in accordance with the law, for overlapping terms of 9 years. The Board holds committee and regular meetings once each month, to which the public is invited.”  Reads like standard corporate copy, no?  Wonder when that next meeting is?  Wonder how many of our citizenry will attend?  Ordinary and sincere meeting planning might be published somewhere or at least adhere to some sort of schedule like the 2nd Tuesday of each month.  But then that would be sensible.

S&WB truck on scene. (photo by Jean-Paul Villere)

The cosmic joke of a boil water advisory on Columbus Day escapes me not.  At least when ol’ Chris sailed the ocean blue, the uncertainty of water sources happened to be known.  What have we gained over 500 years later?  And cue the chirping crickets.  Not much.  You could start with one of my neighbor’s (some might say humorous) observations, “What’s big and yellow and sleeps up to 6?”  Pause.  “A Sewerage & Water Board Truck.”  Rimshot.  Laugh track.  Rub your eyes from the hope of a dizzy dream or tears, and alas ladies and gentlemen, it’s funny because it’s true.  The work ethic of any organization trickles from the top down.  The hustle of a government funded labor force peaked in 1935 WPA, when a day’s labor meant something.  Today?  Insert raspberrying here.

More S&WB handiwork. (photo by Jean-Paul Villere)

Personally my family and I returned to New Orleans in October 2005 to find ample water issues rampant throughout the ravaged cityscape.  Was a boil water advisory in effect then?  Frankly I don’t recall, but I’m going to go out on a limb and offer no.  Should there have been said advisory?  Again limb, likely yes.  Since then my experiences with the S & W B have been on par with what they were pre-K: slack and slow.  Two summers ago I had a driveway inexplicably dug up by S & W B to repair a neighboring water issue only to wait many months later for it to be properly mended.  And at that, of the many blue shirted workmen one felt no need to do much but read my newspaper on my porch.  Upon my discovery of him he quietly looked up at me and asked “I’m alright?”  My only response was “Will it be fixed today!?”  It wasn’t.  Four months later it was.

Toss your hands in the air.  Slap your forehead.  Stutter or exhale.  But perhaps don’t think about it.  Just pay your bill.  And boil your water, maybe.  Or don’t pay your bill.  And don’t boil your water.  Either way, whatever works for you.  It’s only water.

Jean-Paul Villere is the owner of Villere Realty and Du Mois Gallery on Freret Street and a married father of four girls. In addition to his Wednesday column at UptownMessenger.com, he also shares his family’s adventures sometimes via pedicab or bicycle on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

  5 Responses to “Jean-Paul Villere: To Boil Or Not To Boil?”

  1. amen, brother….amen

  2. Is it too much to demand that Mayor Landrieu ask for the resignation of St. Martin? He has the most sway over the board. His inaction shows that he is not interested in moving this city forward and any increases by the S&WB will be squandered. Of course our Mayor will do nothing because that would require him to stick his neck out, something the Landrieu family does not do often if ever.

    I have no doubt that bill increases are necessary to fix the mess we are in but there is no point in spending more money under the current regime.

    A top down restructuring of the S&WB including the removal and replacement of management is overdue. If the rank & file don’t like it then replacements can be found. There should not be any more proof needed beyond the sad state of the current system to show that the S&WB in current form is a complete and utter failure.

  3. In the 12 years I have lived in the city I have never (knowingly) drank city water. I purchase distilled water for all my needs except toilet & shower. I look around and am not encouraged at the condition of residents who have grown up here, especially the lower income individuals who do not have adequate health-care. The city should be ashamed of itself for allowing this condition to continue. I found it very humorous when Nagin bottled Crescent City Clear. On another issue there has been a water leak in the Coliseum Square Playground for the past 2 years (at least) which SW&B has failed to repair regardless to my pointing it out at least 3 times to SW&B employees and a couple of complaint calls. I recon they ignore out of state phone numbers.

  4. Water, water everywhere – and yet we can’t figure it out.

  5. Agree totally. There are only 2 of us at home. Last month my bill was $58′ this month it’s $211. You gotta laugh.

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