BATON ROUGE, La. (Governor's Office) - Update: Louisiana's chief health officer is warning St. Joseph residents to not drink the water, even if their water does not show lead contamination.
During a Friday conference call, Dr. Jimmy Guidry said 418 buildings have been tested for lead so far. 414 results are in and two are pending. Out of the 414 homes and businesses with completed results, 90 showed unacceptable levels of lead. The other tests came back with levels that were in the acceptable range. Guidry says much of the lead contamination is from within the homes and buildings, though some could be coming from the system.
Guidry says once the main lines are replaced, it would be examined if chemicals could be used to fix unacceptable lead levels found within individual homes and buildings. He says it may not be necessary for all places where high lead levels are found to replace the plumbing.
Guidry says that places tested with unacceptable levels of lead will be further investigated and checked for all sources of lead, including paint and surrounding soil. Of those structures under investigation, those with young children and pregnant women will be investigated first.
Guidry is encouraging that residents with children under six have them tested for lead. He says they are working with local care providers to see that any testing necessary of children is completed. Guidry says all children are required to be tested for lead levels prior to turning 6-years-old.
Meanwhile, the state is continuing to provide residents with bottled water for consumption. Guidry says residents may still be able to use their water for some non-consumption purposes.
Friday, Officials from the governor's office, including Dr. Jimmy Guidry, State Health Officer at the Louisiana Department of Health, will host a conference call to provide additional information regarding the water crisis in St. Joseph Louisiana.
KNOE has a crew in St. Joe as the new mayor is taking the oath of office this morning. We will have the latest on the governor's call and the water crisis Friday afternoon and evening online and on KNOE 8 News.
On December 16th, Gov. John Bel Edwards issued a public health emergency for the Town of St. Joseph after test results conducted by the Office of Public Health showed elevated levels of lead in two samples – a private residence and the Town Hall.
In addition, two other sites showed elevated levels of copper – both were private residences. The Town of St. Joseph has experienced water problems for years due to the poorly maintained and deteriorating water distribution system.
Frequent breaks in the water distribution system provide a potential health risk because of the drop in water pressure. Following the initial test results, Gov. Edwards ordered testing of every household in the town within four weeks.
On December 19th, Gov. Edwards visited St. Joseph to reassure residents that the state of Louisiana was doing everything within its means to resolve the problem as quickly as possible.
In addition, Gov. Edwards announced that the new water distribution system was to be complete by the end of 2017. Until then, the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness is currently providing residents with drinking water.