Clean water coming to rural St. Landry Parish


POSTED: Wednesday, September 28, 2011 - 9:45pm

UPDATED: Thursday, September 29, 2011 - 2:49pm

It's been nearly 10 months since arsenic was found in the drinking water in rural St. Landry Parish. At Wednesday’s water board meeting in Krotz Springs, residents living there finally got the news they’ve been fighting for – money to build a pipeline with clean drinking water.

June Barker has lived in the community, called Midway, for 30 years. She says the water has always been bad, but it wasn’t until her neighbors started getting sick that she realized it could be dangerous.

"If it wouldn't have been for the people who had gotten sick from it, we wouldn't have had any idea that there was arsenic in the water," says Barker.

Early this year residents in Midway started testing positive for arsenic poisoning. The source was traced back to their drinking water. Nearly 200 families in Midway are drinking water contaminated with arsenic and they've been begging for clean water since February.

Denny Williams serves on the water board created to find an answer to their water problems. He says the red tape was staggering. "In the United States of America, it's sad when the U.S. public does not have good drinking water."

Fellow board member Howard Wiltz agrees. “Looked like a lot of our government officials fought us a lot of the way trying to keep us from getting the money. But we stuck with it and then bowed up to them and I think we got everything done we wanted."

What they want is a six inch pipe line to bring water 11 miles from Krotz Springs to the Melville town line. They estimate it will cost $973,000. $349,000 will come from a USDA Rural Development grant; another $250,000 from the Governor’s Office of Community Development, the rest will have to be paid back. Midway is borrowing $374,000 to cover the balance.

So far, 174 households have signed up for the water service and paid a $50 deposit – money put down on a promise before the funding was even announced.

"It's going to take a little bit longer,” Williams tells residents at the water board meeting. “I want it tomorrow but I know it's not going to happen tomorrow. But I do know that hopefully I'll get it before I die."

Residents’ reactions are mixed. The announcement is a relief, but many are still skeptical about how much longer they’ll be without clean water. Even State Representative Elbert Guillory says it took too long to find a fix.

"If we were in Afghanistan it would not have taken this long,” says Guillory (D), St. Landry Parish. “But it's happening and we're thankful for it."

The funding still has to pass through the St. Landry Parish Council and the State Bond Commission then the board will consider several bids. Construction should begin this spring. Engineers say clean water should be up and running in Midway by the fall of 2012.

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