Louisiana declares public health emergency in St. Joseph

(CNN)Each week for months, Janet Thornton has spent $20 to buy drinking water for her husband and herself.

“We don’t have a lot of money,” she said, “so we just boil the water on the stove for our dogs. No one has told us if that’s OK.”
    This past spring, the town of St. Joseph was dealing with “not aesthetically pleasing” brown water running through residents’ faucets. State health officials said then it was not dangerous.
    Now, a few months later, water in this Louisiana town of about 1,000 shows high amounts of lead in some samples, and it may be dangerous.
    On December 16, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a public health emergency in the town after two of 13 site samples the day before showed elevated levels of lead, which was absent from water samples at the start of the year.


    Thornton and her husband still receive a $50 water bill every month. Neither she nor her husband have received the 6 liters of water allocated to their household since the Public Health Emergency was issued by the governor.
    Thornton doesn’t blame Edwards, but rather the outgoing mayor of St. Joseph, Edward Brown, who has been mayor since 2000. She blames him for financial problems that stalled the new water management system that was planned for installation this year.
    “I’m so glad they voted Mayor Brown out,” she said.
    In March 2016, Brown was accused of mismanaging and misappropriating funds, according to an investigative audit by the state legislative auditor. The audit also found Brown had sole control over construction contracts and awarded contracts to his cousin, Bobby Conner, amounting to $127,058 over five years.
    Last year, the state committed $6 million to help fix the town’s roughly 90-year-old water infrastructure. But the town couldn’t access the money until the mayor turned in his annual town audit, which was due December 31, 2015.
    “We completed the audit this June and the money was released,” Brown told CNN. He called the late completion “a glitch.”
    A new mayor takes over in January, one who, Thornton hopes, will address the town’s water management issue immediately.
    “Most people are farmers and there is not a lot of money in this town,” she said. “Lots of people don’t have vehicles, so my guess is they’re drinking and bathing in this water.”

    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2016/12/20/us/louisiana-public-health-emergency-drinking-water/index.html