Arsenic-plagued TESI water system donated to new operator - KATC.com | Continuous News Coverage | Acadiana-Lafayette

Arsenic-plagued TESI water system donated to new operator

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Lakeview Estates is the final of five systems in unincorporated Lafayette Parish that TESI donated to LPWDN (Lafayette Parish Water District North), which also include the troubled water systems for Hackberry Place, Royalton Park, Country Square and Young Acres.

TESI CEO Bill Schoening says those systems "had issues we could not resolve economically."

"We felt it would be best to turn those customers over," Schoening said in a phone interview.

The TESI Lakeview Estates water system's 2016 Consumer Confidence Report — which state law requires each water system provide to its consumers each year — showed arsenic levels of 17 ppb, warning its consumers that long-term exposure to high levels of arsenic in drinking water could increase cancer risks and cause skin damage and circulatory problems.

The maximum allowed level of arsenic in drinking water is 10 ppb, a level the system has exceeded for years.

LPWDN plans to run a new distribution line to the neighborhood, and they estimate this will be completed within six months. 

"In 2014, TESI approached Water District North with an offer to donate five water distribution systems they had in rural Lafayette Parish. The caveat was that Water District North guarantee that it would run the water line necessary to connect our system to there's to serve the residents at Lakeview," said Byron Guillory, the Chief of Administration at LPWDN. 

Under the direction of Congress, the EPA in 2001 changed its drinking-water regulations for arsenic from 50 ppb to 10 ppb, giving systems five years to reach compliance. The rule change also set a goal for zero arsenic contamination in drinking water.

Arsenic occurs naturally in the Earth's crust and appears in rocks and soil, water, air, plants and animals, including from the erosion of rocks and minerals and forest fires. The appearance of arsenic is more often found in groundwater sources, like the Chicot Aquifer that provides south Louisiana's drinking water.

But it also can exist in inorganic forms that are harmful to health. According to the EPA, more than 90 percent of the arsenic used by U.S. Industry is for wood preservative products. But it's also used in paints, drugs, dyes, soaps, metals and semi-conductors, along with agricultural applications, mining and smelting.

Resident voicing concerns

Kris Manuel-Sparks has lived in Lakeview Estates for 33 years. She says the quality of her water cost her almost $200 a month in bottled water, ice and maintenance. 

The water often has a brown tint and has stained her dishes, her towels, and the bottom of her pool. 

"Anything you wash that is white, it turns it rusty," said Manuel-Sparks. 

However, what disturbs her most about the water--the arsenic violations.

"I mean, arsenic is used to kill rats," said Manuel-Sparks. "That's what's in our water."

Manuel-Sparks pulled out a folder containing a stack of notices. Water systems are required to notify residents whenever the water does not test to legal standards. 

"You always get a notice the following month, to tell you that you shouldn't have been drinking the water the month before," said Manuel-Sparks. 

Manuel-Sparks says she and her neighbors have been fighting to improve their water for years. She believes the acquisition from Lafayette Parish North is a victory for her neighborhood. They are scheduled to build a new water line within the next six months, however, this may not be a full solution. 

Manuel-Sparks says her neighborhood's pipes are old and she's been told her house may not be able to handle the water pressure of a new system.

Byron Guillory is the Chief of Administration at Lafayette Parish Water System North. He says arsenic could still be stuck to the inside of the pipes. If this is the case, they will need to explore options in order to flush and clean the pipes. 

How is your water quality?

KATC Investigates compiled Louisiana Department of Health violations for water systems throughout Acadiana. Check out the database here.

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