Clayton seeking state grant for water lines

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 25, 2000

CLAYTON, La. — A usual day at Doris Prunty’s house includes scrubbing water residue out of her coffee pot, cleaning a brown ring out of her bathtub and adding iron and rust remover before washing her clothes.

The problem, she says, is the town’s water system, which has produced brown, smelly water off and on since the early 1970s.

&uot;I’ve not drunk a glass of it since then,&uot;&160;said Prunty, who moved to the north Concordia Parish town of 900-plus people in the 1950s. &uot;I use it to flush the commode, wash clothes and sometimes cook, but I&160;buy the water I&160;drink.&uot;

Email newsletter signup

And although the water ran clear Thursday from her tap, Prunty said she hauls some water from a natural spring near Sicily Island, as does neighbor Jeanette Merriett. &uot;You can’t take a bath in the (town’s) water, it’s so bad,&uot; Merriett said. &uot;The clothes you wash turn yellow. And if brush your teeth with it, it almost gags you to death.&uot;

The problem, officials say, is the water system’s lines. &uot;The Health Department tests our water every week and we pass those tests,&uot;&160;said Wilbert Washington, mayor since 1976. &uot;Our water’s healthy.&uot;

And while health officials say residents are safe in drinking their water, many choose not to use it.

&uot;(Town officials) have said we’re out of money and that’s why it can’t be fixed, and I&160;try to tolerate it,&uot; said Jean Coldiron, who has lived in Clayton for 72 years. &uot;But I don’t drink the water, and I&160;don’t cook with it, either.&uot;

The problem is one of age. About one year ago, the town used state funds to construct a new water plant to replace its older, deteriorating plant and replace some water lines. Washington believes problems with the town’s water, which it gets from two wells, will not be solved until the rest of those 40-year-old lines are replaced.

With age comes a buildup of minerals like iron or manganese, and when water lines are shaken by repairs or accidents — such as when a motorist knocked over a fire hydrant last week – that buildup comes out in people’s water, said Michael Dowty of the Office of Public Health’s Alexandria regional headquarters.

Dowty said that office has no record of a boil water notice ever being issued for the town.

Coliform bacteria have been present in the town’s water twice in the last two years, &uot;but both times it was cleared up within a week, and it could have been due to pipes or any number of factors,&uot; Dowty said.

&uot;We’re not just sitting here doing nothing about it, but people expect immediate action,&uot; Washington said. &uot;But you can’t just get on the phone to the state and say, ‘Give me some money.’&uot;

In fact, even though the town has applied for a $463,030 Louisiana Community Development Block Grant to replace the water lines, that grant money can’t be awarded until Clayton officials spend a grant they received last year. And the project in that grant is stuck in the permitting process.

In 1999, the town was approved for a $633,500 LCDBG grant to install new lift stations to improve its sewer system.

But the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals has not yet issued permits for the lift stations. Parish Engineer Bryant Hammett submitted applications for the permits about two months ago, but approval could still be two months away, said grant consultant Oliver Schultz.

After advertising for bids for the project for 25 days, getting pumps for the stations ordered and delivered would take six to eight weeks. &uot;After that, those pumps could be installed in 60 days,&uot;&160;Schultz said.

Then the state could consider the water line grant — none to soon for some Clayton residents.

&uot;My water filter is constantly needing to be replaced,&uot;&160;said William McCaskill.

&uot;Sometimes it’s the color, sometimes the smell … sometimes both,&uot; said Lynn Thomas.