A public health emergency has been declared for the small town of St. Joseph in Louisiana after abnormally high levels of lead and copper were detected in the tap water. The source of the problem is represented by the almost century-old water infrastructure, which may finally be replaced.

Tap Water Risks

Problems with the tap water have been reported in St. Joseph starting with February this year. Several inhabitants complained about the water having an unpleasant color, but state officials declared it safe to drink. Some residents, such as Janet Thornton, decided not to drink it anymore and buy bottled water instead, in spite of financial difficulties:

"We don't have a lot of money, so we just boil the water on the stove for our dogs. No one has told us if that's OK."

Solutions To Drinking Water Problems

Latest tests made on two water samples, one coming from the city hall, have revealed the fact that water in St. Joseph may actually jeopardize people's health due to the high levels of lead and copper. As a result, a public health emergency was declared.

The main person held responsible for the problem is former mayor Edward Brown, who stands accused of misappropriating public funds and giving contracts to relatives and friends. The results were disastrous, especially for the water infrastructure, which became more and more damaged as years passed. Once with the election of the new mayor, John Bel Edwards, the residents of the city hoped a change was finally about to come, especially as the state offered $6 million to fix the infrastructure. However, the process could not begin, as the money could not be accessed before the previous mayor had submitted his audits and reports, which only happened 6 months later than expected.

The process of replacing the infrastructure is bound to be long and expensive. Until the first results, residents are advised not to use tap water for drinking or preparing food. Some even go further and don't even use the water for washing. This led to some complaints, as the residents still need to pay their water bills, in spite of the fact that using it may be hazardous.

In order to answer the complaints, the authorities will provide each resident with 3 liters of water every day for at least 30 days. This measure should help the people in the town overcome the difficult period, but distribution problems meant not everyone managed to get their water in time. However, it is believed more measures will follow. Due to the attention received by the situation in Flint, issues related to drinking water have become a priority on the agenda of many states.

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