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State demands answers from water company over unhealthy amount of chemicals

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DONALDSONVILLE- State health leaders had strong words today for People's Water in Donaldsonville.

"We don't have a trust at this point," Dr. Jimmy Guidry said. "In order to build that trust they have to do their job, and we have to check and make sure they're doing their job."

The water company was supposed to notify the state about problems with any water testing but didn't last year. People's Water blames a faulty meter for not detecting high levels of chlorine dioxide in the water last week. That's when the state issued a 'don't drink the water' order.

State leaders want to know why numerous issues last year were never reported. The Facility Coordinator for People's Water declined to do an on-camera interview but did say the company is investigating how an unhealthy amount of chemicals got into the water supply.

The water spewing from faucets in Donaldsonville is now clean and safe, according to the state. But last week, 10,000 residents were in limbo not being able to trust their taps. Restaurants like the Grapevine downtown were forced to bring in cases of water.

"Just making sure that we had the water in the building to do what we needed to do and to provide our guests with water that wasn't affected," an employee said.

How this happened remains under investigation.

"We've gone over there and done our own testing to show them they have to build a trust," Guidry said.

People's Water says a faulty meter at the raw water location on Bayou Lafourche is to blame for the mishap. At this point, the state isn't buying it.

"There have been statements that the machine isn't working properly," Guidry said. "Again even if that was the case you have to prove it, and I didn't have the proof I needed. They have to assure me this won't happen again."

State leaders said there were four to five times the EPA standard for the chemical chlorine dioxide in the water. That chemical is used to treat and disinfect the water. It's particularly harmful for children and pregnant women.

"Certainly at this point we have an administrative order," Guidry said. "They have to meet the order which is to correct certain things. If they don't meet it in a certain time frame there will be a penalty $3,000 per violation."

Following the discovery, state leaders ordered People's Water to stop treating their water with chlorine dioxide. Additional testing is underway to determine if the harmful chemical ever made it into residents' homes.

State health leaders gave People's Water a laundry list of items for them to get into compliance. People's Water says it has retrained all of its employees, and said the company isn't ruling out disciplinary action for some employees who didn't report the high levels of chemicals in the water.


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