ST. MARTINVILLE, L.a. — Aging water systems are causing issues for small municipalities across the country, state, and even here in Acadiana. Many of these communities do not have the necessary funding to repair or maintain the water systems.
St. Martin Parish President Chester Cedars says St. Martin Parish is no longer going to be one of them. With multiple boil advisories in the recent past, Cedars says it's no secret the parish and others with outdated equipment and infrastructure like it have issues with the systems, especially in rural areas.
His answer? Consolidation.
"We've got to do more to assist if we're gonna keep this structure in place, we've got to do more to assist those rural systems."
Something that is now possible thanks to a $14.3 million grant. A combination of state dollars and ARPA funds, Cedars says even with the funding, it will take two to three months to get these consolidation efforts off the ground for three water systems in the parish so far: One in Catahoula, one in St. Martinville, and the St. Martin Parish water system.
"The perception is this is just talk [...], it's not just talk," he tells KATC. "I can give you 14.3 million additional reasons it's not just talk, and that's the $14.3 million we've committed to making this consolidation work.
Still, this only covers three of several water systems throughout the parish — and they are not the only ones with a cry for help. Over in Arnaudville, Paul Boudreaux shares his issues with United Water System, a service he's been a customer of since 2019 when he moved back home.
"I have memories growing up, we'd drink out of the hose outside, could never do that anymore, and neither can our kids," 52-year-old Boudreaux says. "We need clean water, that's the very first thing we need because this is not a third-world country, this is America and we shouldn't have third-world water going through our pipes."
Frustrated with spending excessive time and money buying and installing water filters only for them to get clogged or stop working, he tells KATC he and his neighbors have filed a class-action lawsuit against United Water in a last-ditch effort to get assistance.
"They didn't listen and unfortunately unless you take someone's money out of their pocket, they won't listen," Boudreaux says. "We tried to be civil, we did, we tried to go over there and ask them good questions to try to get the solutions rolling voluntarily, but they didn't listen, so what's the next step?"
Waiting for a judge to be assigned to the suit, according to public records at last check on Friday.
As for rural communities dealing with water issues in the rest of the parish, there is no word from the parish government yet as to when improvement efforts will be underway.
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