Ferriday still suffering from water woes

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 25, 1999

FERRIDAY, La. – After more than two days without running water, officials hoped the town’s water plant would be up and running again early this morning.

&uot;But even then, Ferriday will still be under a boil water notice for seven to 10 more days,&uot; said John Sturgeon, town attorney.

As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, Interim Superintendent Pete Peterman said Ferriday’s public schools would be open today.

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Wednesday, for the second straight day, people stood in the Ferriday High parking lot waiting for 12,800 gallons of water trucked in by the National Guard, and the Coca-Cola Co. gave out bottled water at town hall.

Since Monday, rumors have been flying about the cause of the shutdown. One particularly wild one involves the possibility of a body found inside the workings of the plant.

&uot;It is absolutely and unequivocally not true,&uot; said Sheriff Randy Maxwell. &uot;I’ve heard a lot of wild rumors since coming to Concordia Parish (30 years ago), but this is at the top of the list.&uot;

Wednesday, Sturgeon and an engineer helping the town tried to shed light on what caused the plant to shut down Monday afternoon.

At the plant, filters containing sand and gravel take minerals and soil out of water drawn from Old River. Usually, the system washes the filters out with treated water regularly to keep mud from building up in the filters. But it seems that the system has not been washing out the filters properly for several months, and engineers working on the plant are not yet sure why, Sturgeon said.

Because the filters have not been backwashed regularly, they have been clogged with mud. So the clogged filters – and therefore, the whole plant – shut off repeatedly last week before finally shut off for good Monday.

Engineers from the Owen & White engineering firm have been at the plant since Monday night to help get it back online and will stay until it is operating correctly, Sturgeon said. Before the engineers leave, the town should get a final report from them on possible causes of the backwash problem and solutions for preventing problems in the future.

The plant was operated by a 10-year-old computer until three months ago, when the computer shut down, forcing minimum-wage workers to operate the plant manually, said Randy Hollis of Owen & White Engineers.

While not blaming workers for the plant’s problems, Hollis said engineers will make sure employees are trained to properly perform every step of the process before the engineers leave. Hollis said it would take only $2,000 to replace the computer.

When asked whether the town has checked into possible funding sources to update the plant, Sturgeon said that &uot;that is what we’re trying to do now.&uot;

He referred to a request for $350,000 in emergency funds the town sent to Gov. Mike Foster’s Office of Rural Development this week. The town requested the funds to update equipment throughout the plant, its intake structures and its storage tanks and ponds.

In addition to that amount, the town is asking for $37,400 – the amount the city had spent as of Wednesday to get the plant working after Monday’s stoppage.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.