Lawsuit parties to tour water plant

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 29, 1999

FERRIDAY, La. — On Thursday, parties involved in a lawsuit against Ferriday and its engineers will get a close-up view of the site that has been at the center of Ferriday’s water crisis for more than 100 days.

Gloria Martello, Ferriday resident and owner of Brocato’s Restaurant, filed suit Oct. 25 against the town and engineering firm Owen and White, saying Ferriday’s recent water problems caused its water customers stress and inconvenience.

At 9 a.m., lawyers for all parties, state health officials, local officials and engineers will tour Ferriday’s water plant to see what repairs have been made there since a boil-water notice was issued Aug. 20, Martello lawyer Linda Harang of New Orleans confirmed Monday.

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“It shouldn’t take more than a few hours,”&160;Harang said. Photographers and videographers will accompany the group to document its findings.

Fact-finding missions are routine in such cases, Chuck Norris of Vidalia said after a Nov. 17 hearing on the suit. In that hearing, a judge issued an order keeping the town and its engineers and contractors from throwing away records and evidence relating to work at the plant.

State health officials said the town must make several repairs at the plant before the water can be tested to see whether the boil notice can be lifted. Some work, like repairing chemical pumps and filters, has been done. Next, crews will check to see if the plant’s electrical system is working correctly.

Ferriday’s town attorney, John Sturgeon, has refused to talk with the press about the water crisis or Martello’s lawsuit until the suit is resolved.

Meanwhile, Martello’s attorneys ? Norris, Harang and John Hammons of Shreveport, La. ? plan to run ads in local newspapers asking people in interested in Martello’s lawsuit to give them a call.

“To certify the class, you need to show the number of people affected is so numerous that dealing with that number of individual suits would be unrealistic,” Harang said. “But there’s no magic number.”

Ferriday’s water customers include 4,000-plus residents and dozens of businesses.

People who call ? some have inquired already, although Harang won’t say how many ? are being interviewed to see what damages they have allegedly been caused by the water situation. “We have absolutely no idea what dollar amount (of damages) to attach to this,”&160;Harang said. Interviews will also allow the lawyers to weed out fraudulent claims.

When and if Seventh Judicial District Judge Kathy Johnson certifies the complaint as a class action suit, the trio will run another ad saying the suit has been certified, she said.

It will ask water customers who do not want to join the suit to fill out a form to that effect by a deadline to be set by Johnson.