FOX 8 Defenders: City of N.O. plans to clean up longtime unmaintained pool

Hurricane Ida’s strong winds exposed what some say has been a longtime hidden danger in one New Orleans neighborhood. A City official calls it an “imminent danger situation,” and now we’re learning more about the plan to eliminate the health and safety hazard, in this FOX 8 Defenders follow-up.
Published: Sep. 22, 2021 at 9:36 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Gentilly homeowner James Miles walked us through his backyard three weeks after Hurricane Ida. He showed us what happened to his next door neighbor’s fence after the storm.

“Every time a storm comes by, this is the outcome,” he said.

Large sections of the tall, metal fence are blown down, leaving his neighbor’s backyard wide open. “Even on the other side, kids can come right there,” Miles said.

It’s exposed a hidden danger that’s existed long before Ida. “Since Ray Nagin was Mayor.. we’ve been going at it with this,” Miles said. The unfiltered swimming pool with its dark, almost black, stagnant water has been a problem nearly 16 years, according to Miles.

“We’ve been complaining about the mosquitoes, raccoons, possums, all these animals have access to our property because of this,” Miles said.

Now that the pool is unfenced and open to the vacant lot next door, he worries it poses an even bigger danger for area kids and his own elderly mother, who suffers with dementia.

The Mandeville Street home was one of dozens of unmaintained pools the FOX 8 Defenders reported on in 2018 when at the time, James Miles took his complaints to us and the City Council. “I call it neighborhood terrorists. He’s not using bombs or chemicals or anything like that, he’s using his pool,” Miles told Council members in 2018.

Then, the pool was fenced and appeared secure, but beyond its tall walls, the water appeared stagnant despite the owner claiming otherwise at a Code Enforcement hearing. Holding up a jug of what appeared to be clear water, Columbus Price told the hearing officer, “this is the water from the pool that I have here.”

Ultimately, the City found Price guilty of a swimming pool violation, and stressed that if the violation wasn’t abated within 30 days, the City recommended that the hearing officer render a $500 daily fine.

Less than two weeks later, our drone captured images of the Gentilly pool drained.

But that didn’t last long. Code Enforcement inspections were documented in September of 2020 and again this year, just last month on August 5th before Hurricane Ida where the property owner was again cited for a swimming pool violation.

Beyond frustrated, Miles voiced his complaints in an email to the head of Code Enforcement, Winston Reid. Several others were copied on the email, including Mayor Latoya Cantrell, Council member Jared Brossett, and us at FOX 8.

In the email, Miles asked, “Will it take someone or myself to lose a family member to resolve this issue?”

The head of Code Enforcement responded to what he called an “imminent danger condition.” Reid wrote in part, “the only way to address this situation is to drain and fill.”

Mayor Cantrell’s response was, “You know I am in full favor draining the pool etc.”

A City ordinance on the books since 2018 narrowly targets unfiltered, unfenced pools, allowing the City to fill them.

After we requested a comment from the City on the Gentilly pool, we were copied on an email from the head of Code Enforcement to the Mayor, saying in part, that he met with the pool owner.

Reid wrote in part, “He (pool owner) has agreed to sign off on a public right away consent document from the office of Code Enforcement to allow our contractor to drain, fill and/or cover the pool.”

James Miles hopes the Mayor and her team follow through and take action.

“I think I went through two different mayors. She (Mayor Cantrell) be the third one. I hope she can end it.. stops it. You know help him out, fill it up.. save somebody’s life,” he said.

The pool owner would be billed for the cost of draining, filling, and or covering of the pool. I spoke with the pool owner, Columbus Price, by phone last night. He told me he’s waiting for his insurance adjuster to survey the damage. He stressed he’s 80-years-old and can’t physically do the work himself.

If you’ve got a consumer issue you’d like us to look into, call the FOX 8 Defenders staffed with volunteers from the National Council of Jewish Women or fill out our online complaint form.

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