Reaction to lift of notice mixed

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 22, 1999

FERRIDAY, La. — Jennifer Watts of Ferriday admitted that buying bottled water is an inconvenience, but she’s not going back to using the town’s water for drinking and cooking any time soon.

&uot;I’m not going to take any chances, especially with my babies,&uot;&160;Watts said after her shift as a dishwasher and cook at Brocato’s Restaurant ended Wednesday. &uot;I’m scared that next week (health officials) will come back and say ‘Oops, we made a mistake.’&uot;

She was referring to Louisiana health officials’ rescinding on Wednesday a boil-water notice that had been in effect for Ferriday for 142 days. Some residents reacted with enthusiasm when they heard the news.

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&uot;It’s wonderful,&uot;&160;resident Lorell Loomis said. &uot;My maid and I&160;were just talking about how hard it’s been to have to use bottled water for everything … and I’ll definitely go back to town water if they say it’s OK.&uot;

&uot;If they say we can use the town’s water, I’m going to,&uot;&160;said resident Cynthia Metcalfe, who has bought water and gotten it from National Guard tanks placed throughout the town. &uot;It’s better than having to pay for water twice.&uot;

Others aren’t sure they will drink the water, even now.

&uot;That’s great,&uot;&160;said Otis Johnson, who heard the news while sitting in the waiting area of the Ferriday Barber and Beauty Salon on Louisiana Avenue. &uot;But I’m still going to use bottled water, at least for a while.&uot;

Some business owners, like Brocato’s Restaurant owner Gloria Martello, said they will now use Ferriday water. She estimated that she has spent $25,000 to buy ice, water and disposable plates and pay people to haul water from the tanks.

&uot;I’ve talked to several people who said they’re not going to use the town’s water, but I’ll go back on the town’s water because I&160;can’t afford not to,&uot;&160;said Martello, who filed suit against the town and its engineers Oct. 25 over the water crisis.

&uot;I&160;don’t whether the notice being lifted will affect the suit,&uot;&160;she said. &uot;I’m waiting to hear from my attorney on that.&uot;

Her Vidalia attorney, Chuck Norris, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Jerry Johns, owner of Big John’s Burgers, said he will use the town’s water — something he has not done since the notice was issued.

&uot;The boil-water notice has hurt our business because even though we haven’t used town water, people have been scared to chance it,&uot;&160;Johns said. &uot;Once this news gets out, I&160;expect business to pick up.&uot;

The water crisis started in mid-August, when the town’s water plant kept switching on and off and then shut down for three and a half days, apparently due to operator error and lack of maintenance over more than a decade.

Even though the crisis is now over, resident Christine Taylor still worries about what the boil notice has said about the operation of the plant.

&uot;Somebody had to have their head in the sand for something like this to happen in the first place,&uot;&160;Taylor said.

But others believe that the number of repairs the town has had to make to its water plant just to have the notice lifted could be one of the best things to happen to Ferriday’s water system.

&uot;They’ve been doing the best they can to get off the boil notice,&uot; said Jimmy Buford, Ferriday resident and manager of Ferriday Beauty and Barber Shop. &uot;I&160;hope this has corrected our water situation once and for all.&uot;

&uot;We’ve been in business here for 28 years, and this is the first time I’ve smelled chlorine in Ferriday water,&uot;&160;Johns said.

&uot;Hopefully, we’ll end up with better water because of this.&uot;