Boil-water order lifted in Ferriday

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 22, 2010

FERRIDAY — For the Town of Ferriday, “indefinite” meant 344 days.

The Department of Health and Hospitals placed the town’s water supply under an indefinite boil-water order May 11, 2009.

After testing the water Tuesday afternoon, the DHH called Mayor Glen McGlothin and told him that the order was lifted.

And so Wednesday morning the mayor, Aldermen Johnnie Brown and Elijah “Steppers” Banks and Alderwoman Gail Pryor raised glasses of Ferriday water into the air, toasted the future and took a drink.

After the ceremonies were over, Banks turned to the mayor and said, “That was good-tasting water,” to which the mayor replied, “That’s because it’s good water.”

The small crowd of local officials, engineers and well-wishers had gathered at the plant to dedicate the new water storage tank. The boil-order notice was put in place because the old tank had a large, rusted hole in it, leaving the water exposed to the elements, something DHH protocol strictly forbids.

In addition to replacing the tank, the town made extensive repairs to the water plant itself, and Wednesday McGlothin spoke of the importance of future maintenance.

“(The people of Ferriday) have been putting up with (water problems) for 22 years,” he said. “They have been under a boil-water order for a year.”

“Some of them were angry, some of them were testy, but so was I.”

Getting the order lifted took a lot of work, but the support the town received during the year has also been appreciated, McGlothin said.

In particular, he pointed out three National Guardsmen who were in the audience, who had filled and maintained the water buffalos parked around the town for the duration of the order.

“For one solid year those guys hauled water into Ferriday and worked their butts off for you all to have water,” he said.

State Sen. Neil Riser said that working with the town to get the situation resolved was like trying to put together a puzzle that didn’t have all of the pieces.

“There are a lot of things you can do without, but water is not one of them,” Riser said.

Riser’s senate colleague, Francis Thompson, drew on Riser’s puzzle analogy.

“This is just short of a miracle,” he said.

“We didn’t know we could put this puzzle together.”

State Rep. Andy Anders said that the Ferriday water problems took top priority for him.

“We have a lot to do in Baton Rouge, but this was the most important for me,” he said.

And while everyone present expressed appreciation that the order is lifted and the water plant is fully functioning, Engineer Bryant Hammett said the future holds more for the town water system.

Hopefully, the town will be able to make an announcement about funding to build a brand new plant with wells for a water source in the next couple of weeks, Hammett said.

“This is actually a new beginning of water service for the folks in Ferriday,” Hammett said.

With the proposed $7 million project, the town’s water will be easier and less expensive to treat, he said.

The current water source, Old River, has high levels of organic matter and manganese in it, requiring heavy treatment that can affect plant equipment in the long term.

Working to make sure the new project comes to fruition is a priority, State U.S. Department of Agriculture Director Clarence Hawkins said.

“We are going to do everything to make sure the people of the town have fresh, potable water,” he said.

He has tasked his staff members to help with Ferriday’s application for funding for the new plant, Hawkins said.

“We are going to do everything possible to make this project come to light and improve your quality of life,” he said.