- Associated Press - Thursday, February 4, 2016

ST. JOSEPH, La. (AP) - Tap water in the town of St. Joseph is back from murky brown to the pale yellow that has been usual there, and officials are working to help make it clear, a Louisiana health department spokesman said Thursday.

Bob Johannessen said the water turned brown after a water main broke in January, draining the system. Once the break was fixed, Johannessen said, water pouring back stirred up oxidized iron sediment.

He said the yellow color is from iron in the aquifer that supplies the water.

“They haven’t been treating the water for iron,” Johannessen said.

A December inspection found problems including poor filtration and lack of enough valves to properly isolate water leaks, according to a statement Thursday from the Department of Health and Hospitals. It said routine tests of water sent to the department’s lab in September, November and December did not find bacteria used to indicate possible contamination.

“No health risks were found in the last year associated with St. Joseph Water System’s water, only recent clarity issues related to its iron content,” it said.

The department said replacing the pipes would be “most prudent, but costly,” with a price tag of more than $8 million.

The statement said that because St. Joseph has not passed governmental audits, it has not been able to collect money for the system in recent capital outlay bills.

The water system has issued 20 voluntary boil water advisories between May 2012 and January 2016, a number that “is not uncommon,” the statement said. It said 37 of the 1,360 drinking water systems it supervises have similar records, and 10 have issued 40 or more advisories over the same period.

Officials from DHH and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are working closely together to deal with citizens’ worries and complaints, the statement said. It said they met last week with town officials and will do so again this week to talk about ways to improve the water system and what kinds of funding are available.

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