For a second time, residents from St. Joseph with Together Louisiana packed a house committee hearing to fight for clean and safe drinking water.
“We’re in a life or death situation,” said St. Joseph Minister Ray Bowman.
Rep. Marcus Hunter started the hearing showing a powerful video about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.
Then presented a water test result, which he said was done by the doctor who tested Flint’s water.
It showed water in St. Joseph has significantly high levels of lead.
The acceptable amount according to the test is less than 0.2 pg/L.
“When someone goes to their sink to their tub the levels were at 42, 42, the acceptable levels are .2,” said Rep. Hunter.
Officials say this doesn’t mean all the water is contaminated with lead in St. Joseph, and it’s likely the result of old pipes in the home.
Still lawmakers found it very troubling and wanted the mayor of the town to explain why six million dollars given to him has never been used to fix the old pipes or water filtration system.
“We have spent money dealing with repairing water lines, upgrading the plant operations, that kind of thing,” said Mayor of St. Joseph, Edward Brown.
But lawmakers weren’t buying it and blamed the mayor for mismanaging the town’s funds leading to his audit, which now ties up millions needed to fix the water system.
“While the state works with the mayor or the local elected official to come into compliance, there has to be an avenue when the people are crying out,” said Rep.Katrina Jackson.
Lawmakers ended up passing Hunter’s bill 823 that would appoint an administrator other than the mayor to ensure funds go to fixing the town’s worst pipes and begins replacing the filtration system.
The bill will also require the state to test and enforce the EPA’s secondary water standards, which are guidelines for certain elements in the water that can impact color, taste, or odor.
St. Joseph residents know the bill isn’t a quick fix to the water problems, but they say it’s a start.
They are hoping the Governor makes the issue a priority and declares a state of emergency in St. Joseph so they can get the federal government’s help.