POSTED: Thursday, March 31, 2011 - 2:48pm
UPDATED: Friday, April 1, 2011 - 4:38pm
St. Landry Parish, La (NBC33) — Paul Burleigh looks out over his property and says, “This, I figure, is the most beautiful spot I ever seen in my life. This breaks my heart to see us having all these problems and (we) can’t get any help from anybody.”
Burleigh and his nearly 200 neighbors found arsenic in their private wells one month ago. And with every day that passes without a solution, they get more and more frustrated.
“We're one little community right in the middle of everybody that's got water and we can’t seem to get anywhere with it,” says June Avila.
Their fight got the attention of State Senator Elbert Guillory, who represents St. Landry Parish.
“This is my community,” Sen. Guillory (D), says. “These are my people.”
He says he is shocked that something like this could happen right here, right now.
Senator Guillory says, “This is home, this is St. Landry parish. If we can’t help people in St Landry Parish, then by golly we should all back up and get out of government, go home."
Parish President Don Menard shares that frustration. At the monthly water board meeting, President Menard explained to the crowd of concerned citizens that the process, isn't easy.
"When you're dealing with private water wells, anything private, they look at it totally differently," President Menard says. "If you would be on a public well system, a public water system would be another matter."
But residents are sick of hearing that they can’t get help because they live in an unincorporated area and drink from private wells.
Resident Gwen Dupont says, “We chose to live here, fine, but we should be given that opportunity. They chose to live in town, what if they shut that off and tell everybody okay, we're going to give them the good water; you go and drill your own well. They wouldn’t like it.”
The Department of Health and Hospitals, or DHH, is charged with advocating for the people of Louisiana. They can’t test or treat private wells, but they can grease the wheels of government.
“This is a priority for us,” says Jake Causey, Chief Engineer with DHH.
The community banded together and submitted a grant proposal to the USDA, to construct a permanent water line, from Krotz Springs to their homes, just four miles away.
DHH wrote a letter of support, to expedite that grant proposal.
It’s been ruled “eligible”, and now it’s on to the feasibility stage. But even if their application is approved, there’s no funding available now.
President Menard says, “I was about this close to declaring a State of Emergency for the area until I found out it doesn’t do... it amounts to about a hill of beans because there's no money.”
And no one knows how long it will take to find the funds.
Today, the battle continues, and Senator Guillory says the fight is far from over, but worth the effort.
“You have a room full of people who, today, are their drinking water in America, today, is impure,” Senator Guillory says. “So this is a problem that we have to resolve.”