St. Martin

Dec 12, 2013 7:29 PM by Akeam Ashford

Residents Worried Their Water Is Unsafe to Drink

Residents in St. Martin Parish are scared about what's coming out of their taps.

A KATC investigation found Bayou Teche Water Works is carrying high levels of potentially harmful chemicals, after the water system violated the EPA's Safe Drinking Water Act this year when its levels of Trihalomethanes (TTHM) were above the allowable amount.

Carole Duplantis is on the Bayou Teche Water Works system. Three weeks ago, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Duplantis says she can't say for sure, if drinking the water put her at a higher risk for cancer, but as a customer of the water company, she wants answers.

"It's very scary, now that I have cancer. I mean if we have to worry about our drinking water, then that is ridiculous," she said. "You use water for everything during the day, but the most important thing is the water we drink, and put in our bodies."

The EPA asks that water systems aim to have no TTHM in its water, but allows up to 80 parts per billion (ppb). Bayou Teche Water Works had an average of 86.8 ppb this year, 10 percent above the max.

According to the EPA, some people who drink water containing high levels of TTHM over many years could experience liver, kidney or central nervous system problems and an increased risk of cancer. DHH is monitoring the water system, and it is not clear whether the contamination led to these residents' health problems.

We reached out to Bayou Teche Water Works and a representative refused an on-camera interview, but operator Ricky Frederick said they're working to correct the problem by flushing the whole water system once a month. Bayou Teche Water Works' uses groundwater as its water source for its population of 9,102.

Frederick says their overage is "nothing. This is not an emergency. If it had been, the residents would have been notified immediately." He says it takes 20 years of exposure to cause problems.

This is not the first time Bayou Teche Water Works has violated safety laws. It was fined $5,000 by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality in 2008 for illegally discharging wastewater into Bayou DuPortage and Lake Dautrive. That violation is not related to the high levels of TTHM, according to a state DHH spokesman.

State Representative Terry Landry says he's working with residents to address the current problem with the water system.

"We're trying to make sure through the state Department of Health and Human services that the water is safe for residents," Landry said.

Although nobody has verified cancer is connected to the water.

It should be noted that another water system in St. Martin Parish, the City of St. Martinville Water System, was also cited for high levels of TTHM this year. But its levels were lower than Bayou Teche Water Works.

If you would like to learn more about your water system, the state Department of Health and Hospitals administers a Safe Drinking Water Program that includes a database of samples taken at every public water system. See the data base here: http://new.dhh.louisiana.gov/index.cfm/page/1290

Each water system is also required to complete an annual consumer confidence report. You can find your system's report here: http://new.dhh.louisiana.gov/index.cfm/page/1588

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