Residents coping with water crisis

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 26, 1999

FERRIDAY, La. – As Ferriday’s fire chief, Herman Smith knows a thing or two about the importance of water – but his household has learned that lesson anew in the last week. On Friday, the town issued a boil water notice because its water plant, whose filters were clogged with mud, kept shutting down. It shut down completely Monday afternoon and stayed down until Wednesday evening, leaving customers without water.

&uot;You don’t realize how many things you water for,&uot; said Smith, whose household got water from National Guard trucks at Ferriday High School during the crisis.

&uot;We went through 14 gallons in 20 minutes one morning just to flush toilets and get ready and used 10 gallons just to bathe,&uot; said his wife, Ruth. &uot;Our son family wanted to visit, but we told them to wait – we didn’t have enough water for four or five more people.&uot;

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The Smiths are not alone: Every Ferriday resident and business has been touched in innumerable ways by the water crisis.

Brocato’s Restaurant has used more than 200 gallons of water from the Ferriday High site since Friday. That is despite the fact that the restaurant closed for two days during the crisis, costing owner Gloria Martello about $1,200.

That’s not counting what Martello spent buying Styrofoam plates and plastic utensils to avoid having to boil or haul enough water to wash dishes. On Thursday, her daughter and son-in-law brought her three 55-gallon drums of water from their home in West Monroe. &uot;We’re using any water we can get,&uot;&160;said Martello.

&uot;It’s like the old saying goes, ‘You don’t miss the water ’til the well runs dry,’&uot;&160;said her husband, Frankie.

Sitting at Brocato’s counter, Lois Feltenberger said she counts herself lucky to have someone whose water she can use.

Her daughter lives near Vidalia, so Feltenberger went to her house to take baths. And she had to haul 10 gallons of drinking water to her apartment each day.

&uot;Other than that, it didn’t affect me that much,&uot;&160;Feltenberger said. &uot;I&160;ate out.&uot;

But at times during the crisis, business at Big John’s Burgers slowed considerably because of the water scare, said head cashier Paula Givens – despite the fact they and other restaurants took health precautions.

&uot;We’re serving canned sodas and bottled water, and Jerry (Johns, the manager) hauled water from out in the parish in ice chests for other uses,&uot;&160;Givens said.

Across town, Sonny’s Pizza Owner Darrell Boles was using a bucket to fill a 50-gallon drum with National Guard for the restaurant, something he has done twice a day since the water problems began.

&uot;We buy 25 bags of ice a day and 20 2-liters of (soda) twice a day, and we can’t run anything through the Coke machines,&uot;&160;he said.

At Ferriday Barber &&160;Beauty Salon, beauticians cannot work until the boil water notice is over – in an estimated seven to 10 days – because they do not want to wash hair with the water. &uot;I&160;can’t shave anyone except with clippers because I&160;can’t use the water, either,&uot; said Manager Jimmy Buford of Ferriday. &uot;And we closed for two days because it was too much of a hassle to bring water in.&uot;

Buford stayed in Natchez Tuesday night to avoid the water hassle at home. Still, he has brought 50 gallons of water home since the water crisis started.

Sitting in Buford’s barber’s chair, Beedell Gibson said he is bringing 12 to 15 gallons of water home per day himself.

&uot;Any time you wanted water, you had to go get some,&uot; Gibson said. &uot;You don’t realize how precious that water is until you don’t have it, especially this time of year.

&uot;But the city is doing the best that it can, given the circumstances.&uot;

At the Ferriday High water site, Tracie Skipper filled a soda bottle, a water jug and a larger water container with water as 1-year-old son Byron tried to help by using a water jug – with a large hole in the bottom.

&uot;We use this bathing, cooking, drinking – everything,&uot;&160;said Skipper, who had gotten 15 to 16 jugs of water before Thursday.

Skipper is critical of the water service and quality in Ferriday. &uot;It began smelling worse two weeks ago, and it still smells bad,&uot;&160;she said. Still, &uot;it was a shock to me when it went out completely, because (water)&160;is not something you expect to go out.&uot;