St. Tammany water concerns leave parish president, council debating solutions

William Anderson has called the Cross Gates neighborhood home for 40 years. He says some things have haven’t changed, while other things — like the water — have.

“If it comes out brown, there’s something wrong with it,” said Anderson, who has relied heavily on bottled water for the past year.

Complaints over water quality in Cross Gates, a subdivision just outside Slidell city limits, first emerged after a sewage leak in April 2021. While the Louisiana Department of Health has since declared the water safe to drink, neighborhood homeowners — including Parish Councilman Mike Smith — remain unconvinced.

“It’s obvious to me that the water system is not working as designed, and it’s obvious to the constituents,” Smith said.

Tammany Utilities, which the parish owns and operates, provides water to Cross Gates.

Smith authored a resolution requesting the parish seek outside help with its water quality improvement projects.

“The sooner the better,” he said. “It is water we’re talking about, not some other service that’s not critical.”

Michael Vinsanau, a spokesman for Parish President Mike Cooper, says government leaders are “looking at all the options” but have yet to decide whether to recruit a third-party company.

In the meantime, Vinsanau maintains Tammany Utilities is making progress on its own. Of the 35 quality recommendations the engineering firm Owen & White sent the parish in August, 13 are either finished or in progress.

“This year alone, we will be spending millions of dollars to make that happen,” he said.

The firm also recommended Tammany Utilities conduct a 60-day chlorine burn. The parish plans to hire a third-party contractor to conduct it, in accordance with LDH guidelines.

Smith is pleased that the parish has agreed to follow through with the burn. But he wants to know when it — and other water improvement projects — will happen.

“The sooner we do that, the sooner we restore some faith in the potability of the water,” he said. “It’s like we’re asking somebody to operate on a patient, but we don’t have the support staff or the machines in the operating room to help them.”

“When it comes to deadlines, you want to be reliable, and you want to be fair when you give out those timelines,” Vinsanau said. “So at this time, no, we don’t have a specific timeline to give people. But they should know we’re actively working on this.”

READ MORE:St. Tammany water concerns leave parish president, council debating solutions

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