Water crisis continues to take its toll

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 16, 1999

FERRIDAY, La. – The state of Ferriday’s water system has forced the Roberts family to move to another state, at least temporarily.

Tracy Roberts; his wife, Christine; and their family have lived with Christine’s grandfather in Natchez since Aug. 27.

Their children include 10-year-old Mia and 8-year-old Adam, Tracy’s children from his first marriage; Katherine Junkin, 7, Christine’s daughter; and Phillip, the couple’s 1 1/2-year-old son.

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The family moved after the State Office of Public Health said small children should not bathe in the town’s water until a boil water notice in effect since Aug. 20 is lifted.

&uot;If you can’t put your baby in the bathtub and give him a bath, what else can you do?&uot; Tracy said. He added that his family had continued using the town’s water until they heard of the boil notice – on Aug. 23.

That is just one of many ways Ferriday’s 4,000-plus residents and dozens of businesses continue to be affected by a boil notice that will not be lifted until the town’s water meets state standards for such things as clarity and chlorine residue.

On a recent Friday, regulars filtered into Brocato’s Restaurant as always. But owner Gloria Martello said things are still far from normal because of the water crisis.

&uot;It’s a constant hassle,&uot;&160;Martello said. &uot;We’re still having to buy ice and haul in (drinking) water, and we are still boiling water to use for sanitary purposes.&uot;

National Guard personnel estimate that they have distributed 400,000 gallons of water to Ferriday residents since the boil notice began.

&uot;We can’t have a salad bar any more because we don’t have enough ice for it,&uot;&160;Martello added. &uot;A $3,000 ice machine is going to waste because we can’t use town water to make ice.&uot;

The crisis has also changed the daily routine for Ferriday’s five public schools, said Superintendent Lester &uot;Pete&uot;&160;Peterman.

Maintenance people have to come in to work extra early to haul Vidalia water to the Ferriday schools, each of which have three to five water coolers where students and staff can get drinking water.

They also deliver 5,000 drinking cups to Ferriday schools each week.

The National Guard has set up tanks filled with Vidalia water outside each school. Cafeteria workers have to haul jugs of water from the tanks to the cafeteria in order to fix meals, which Peterman admitted is &uot;a tough chore.&uot;

What has impressed Peterman the most is how little those involved with the schools, from students to administrators, have complained about the situation.

&uot;We have been fortunate in that regard,&uot;&160;Peterman said. &uot;There has very little bickering and complaining. They’ve really pulled together.&uot;

Back in Natchez, the Roberts family is still living with Christine Roberts’ grandfather. They have not been able to move many of their things to their temporary home, however, including many of the children’s favorite toys.

Mia mentioned that in a recent letter to the editor of local newspaper. In that letter, she also asked that the water crisis be resolved as soon as possible.

Still, the family is continuing to make the best of a bad situation. &uot;We’re just fortunate we had someplace to go,&uot;&160;Tracy Roberts said.