Water company says fire hydrants off limits to firefighters
SLAUGHTER- A local water company says the fire hydrants in East Feliciana Parish are not designed for fire support, and should be off limits to firefighters.
East Feliciana Rural Water claims every time their hydrants are used, it causes brown water for its customers.
It was a shocking interview with the East Feliciana Water System's Operation Manager that caused The Investigative Unit to ask more questions.
"Up here in East Feliciana, the hydrants you see up here are not for fire support whatsoever," Operations Manager Jason Head said.
We asked why they were there.
"For flushing," Head responded."Flushing, not fire support."
It was the opening of a hydrant in Slaughter last month that caused brown water for customers like Artis Cain. The Investigative Unit had a lab test that nasty brown water, when water officials declined to take a sip after telling customers the water was safe.
Our findings showed the water at Cain's home had high levels of lead, unacceptable by EPA standards which is why the water system is being required to test its water more frequently.
Following The Investigative Unit's initial story about brown water, the parish water system covered hydrants with black trash bags and duct tape.
Allen McNabb is the President of the parish fire board.
"We require water to operate and to strategically find any source we can in an emergency," McNabb said.
Tonight, he says he isn't trying to cause friction with the water company, but he's at odds with the water company's blanket statement to stop using hydrants.
McNabb says he recently attended a meeting and major infrastructure improvements need to be made to the water system to prevent brown water and increase the volume of water to the hydrants. McNabb says it would total over three million dollars. He says, until those improvements are made, the water system can do what it wants. But, if his volunteer firefighters need water, they know where to find it.
"We will have to get water in an emergency and use the hydrants," McNabb said.
In some areas of the parish, McNabb says the water system put locks on the hydrants. We were not able to locate any of those today. McNabb says he's also instructed his fire fighters to only use the hydrants in dire emergencies.