- Associated Press - Friday, February 24, 2017

ST. JOSEPH, La. (AP) - It’s likely to be another eight months before St Joseph residents can drink tap water, according to the town’s court-appointed financial administrator.

The state has provided bottled water since mid-December, after high lead levels were found in the water at 38 houses - about one-quarter of the homes in the town of about 1,000.

Work has begun on a new water system, but it’s likely to be at least the end of September before it’s completed, David Greer said in his February report to state district court.

He said installing about 64,000 feet of new water lines and 525 new water meters is expected to cost $3.4 million, The Advocate reported (https://bit.ly/2mtPyAA ).

Refurbishing the treatment plant also has begun but costs aren’t yet known, he said. The state has approved more than $1 million for equipment to handle high levels of iron and manganese which discolor the water.

St. Joseph’s problems are less severe than those in Flint, Michigan, state health officer Jimmy Guidry said.

That’s partly because many people already drank bottled water, because the tap water often was brown and smelly.

Another reason is that children under the age of six - those most affected by lead - live in only two of the houses with high lead levels.

Most of the homes with high readings were built when lead pipes were still common, Guidry said.

Water systems must submit annual lead tests.

Since December, state officials have been scrutinizing those from 300 other small and poorly maintained systems with the same leaky pipes, inefficient filtering and lack of financial resources that plague St. Joseph.

Guidry said he doesn’t know for sure yet, but judging from the years of tests that showed no lead contamination, he suspects that instability of St. Joseph’s system caused some of the old pipes to flake lead into the water.


Information from: The Advocate, https://theadvocate.com

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