A public health emergency has been declared in the town of St. Joseph, Louisiana, by Gov. John Bel Edwards after officials discovered high levels of copper and lead in several water samples.
Edwards declared a public health emergency in the town after two of 13 site samples showed elevated levels of lead, which was absent from water samples at the start of the year.
The governor's office issued a statement warning residents of St. Joseph, a small town of approximately 1,100 people, to stop using tap water.
State health officials and the governor recently visited the town, urging residents to use bottled water for brushing teeth and food preparation.
For the residents this problem is not new; they have been concerned about the water situation since many years because the water never looked clean. But previously health officials believed that the water was safe for consumption.
"It's just a given fact that at some point during the week, you're going to have brown or yellow water," said resident Garrett Boyte.
The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals requested residents to stop drinking tap water for at least 30 days. The state is handing out 3 liters of drinking water per person per day for the next 30 days, as officials attempt to test water from every running source, informed State Health Officer Dr. Jimmy Guidry.
But resident Janet Thorton said that she and her husband have not received the 6 liters of water allocated to their household, and she still gets a $50 water bill every month.
She blames the mayor, Edward Brown, for this horrific situation.
The state committed $6 million to help fix the town's roughly 90-year-old water infrastructure last year. But the money couldn't be accessed until the mayor turned in his annual town audit. Brown conveniently called the late completion of the audit “a glitch."
A new mayor will take over in January, and Thorton and all the other residents hope that the new mayor will address the water management issue immediately.
If the situation prevails, the residents may have to face the horrors that people of Flint experienced, when the state and federal government failed to address the problem in due time.
Flint, with a population of about 100,000, switched its water source from Detroit's municipal system to the Flint River to save money in 2014. The river water was more corrosive and caused more lead to leach from its aging pipes
Residents had to consume and shower with lead contaminated water for more than a year, leading to high levels of toxic metal in their blood creating behavioral and IQ problems in children.
The water crisis in Flint was prolonged and only gained attention toward the end of 2015 and January 2016 when President Obama declared a state of emergency.