Gov. John Bel Edwards promised frightened residents of the tiny Delta town of St. Joseph on Monday that a project to replace their potentially poisoned water system has been fast tracked.
As The USA Today Network of Louisiana reports, Edwards told a packed house during a town meeting in St. Joseph on Monday evening that the state will provide water safe to drink and to use for cooking.
“We’re in this with you for the long haul until your water system is fixed,” said Edwards, who declared a public health emergency late last week after lead was found in two of 13 water samples taken.
Engineer Bryant Hammett, a former legislator who has done similar work in Ferriday, said the $9 million project to replace the town’s water system will be ready by September, compressing the timeline from 18 months to nine months. The project was boosted by a $597,000 grant from the Delta Regional Authority, which was announced at the meeting.
Edwards brought his top team of medical experts, among them state public health officer Dr. Jimmy Guidry and Department of Health Secretary Rebekah Gee, to the town hall meeting as well.
Guidry said the state will begin testing the water of all 515 St. Joseph households immediately and complete the collection of samples in a week.
“I go to bed at night thinking about this and wake up in the morning thinking about it,” Guidry said. “How bad is it? How much lead is in the water? Where is it? These are the answers we’re seeking.”