From pale yellow to murky brown is how some St. Joseph residents have seen the color of their water change in recent days.
“Normally, its a light yellow. in the past four days its changed,” Garrett Boyte said. He has livd in the small Tensas Parish community for over a year.
Boyte said he called the state Department of Health and Hospitals who indicated well water samples taken at St. Joseph met the Environmental Protection Agency’s minimal standards for quality. He said given that result the problem likely lies with the system’s pipes.
According to Boyte, the town claims the problem was recently magnified by either a break or malfunction in the water line along Levee Street. He said the water quality has been problematic for several years. The issue exists in spite of the town being award over $6 million in capital outlay funds in the last legislative session dedicated toward water system improvements.
Senator Francis Thompson (D-Delhi) made the request for the funding. “Upkeep of rural water systems is a difficult task,” Thompson said. But the state’s legislative auditor indicates an upkeep of the town’s records is why the town has yet to receive the funds.
“State law requires all local reports within six months of the end of the fiscal year,” First Assistant Legislative Auditor Tom Cole said. The town had not submitted an audit for the past fiscal year that ended June 30, 2015. The legislative auditor’s office they had received town audit the previous year, FY 2014.
Cole indicated for this past fiscal year the state office had not received, had a report or notification of the town’s audit as of the end of 2015. Four notification letters were sent to St. Joseph, but the town has not responded.
The News-Star made several calls for comment from the town’s mayor, Edward Brown. He did not return those calls.
Thompson said the town was unable to get an approved audit in time. He’s talked to Brown and feels the mayor is trying to work through and resolve the issue. The senator did indicate the town had a block grant of over $553,000 approved in 2015. He said those funds are going to water system improvements selected by the town’s engineer.
Cole said should St. Joseph submit the audit report, pending review and approval, the town would be taken off the non-compliance list and the funds would be released.
The latest episode with darker water flowing from faucets has left some residents with more questions than answers. “Its a bureaucratic mess,” Boyte said.