Attorney: Water lawsuit still stands

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 3, 2000

VIDALIA, La. – A 124-day boil-water notice for Ferriday was lifted Dec. 22, and residents and businesses have been able to drink the water ever since.

But that does not change the lawsuit Ferriday resident and restaurant owner Gloria Martello filed Oct. 25 against the town and engineering firm Owen and White.

Ferriday water customers &uot;still had 100-some-odd days of damage to their businesses, time when they could not use the (unboiled)&160;water,&uot;&160;said Chuck Norris of Vidalia, one of Martello’s attorneys.

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&uot;We’re very happy it’s lifted because their misery will stop. But does nothing more than fix the time … when damages occurred. It does not do away with the claims of those people.&uot;

On the day the boil notice was lifted, Martello said she was waiting on word from her attorneys on whether the lawsuit would be affected. Martello is still the only plaintiff in the case.

But Norris and Martello’s other lawyers, Linda Harang of New Orleans and John Hammons of Shreveport, have asked Judge Kathy Johnson of Seventh Judicial District Court to certify the complaint as a class-action lawsuit.

Norris said he does not expect a hearing to be held on certification of the lawsuit until at least February. And nothing else has been filed in the suit since Baton Rouge engineering firm Owen and White filed its answer to Martello’s lawsuit in late December.

The boil notice was in effect for more than 4,200 residents and dozens of businesses since Aug. 20, when the water plant kept shutting down, apparently due to lack of maintenance and operator error.

To get the notice lifted, crews had to complete dozens of repairs, from working on filters and chemical pumps and installing a new operations computer to making electrical improvements.

Ferriday’s water plant was still producing usable water as of Monday afternoon, said Michael Cazes, regional engineer for the Louisiana Office of Public Health.