Statewide fee hike for drinking water begins January
BATON ROUGE- Next year water systems across the state will increase fees by about seventy-five cents per month to pay for increased state inspections. Customers will pick up the tab but Louisiana health inspectors say it's badly needed since funding was slashed back in 2012.
"What we witnessed was a huge increase in violations," said Jimmy Guidry, Louisiana's Health Officer. "Water systems weren't doing the appropriate tests or they weren't doing enough tests and we weren't getting the results that we needed."
The state legislature and the governor approved the hike in the spring. Inspectors will use the money to look for harmful chemicals and micro-organisms in drinking water.
Guidry said older, rural water systems with few customers in poor communities are most at risk for contamination. Currently the town of St. Joseph is northeast Louisiana is facing a crisis with poisonous lead found in the system.
However dirty water is a fact of life for many in the Capital region too.
"Where you have a poor community and there's not enough people to pay the bills, they're having a very difficult time maintaining their water systems," said Guidry.
The renewed inspections will put more experts in the field giving small water systems more face time with people who can help them manage infrastructure problems.
Guidry said the fee hike isn't enough to tackle the state's total infrastructure problem but it is a start.
"It's going to take all of us working together with this extra funding to make sure we can keep ahead of the fact that our infrastructure is aging and failing," he said.