Minden Press-Herald

Oct 02nd

Parish committee has good report on local water

Webster Parish Drinking Water Protection Committee in just over six months has accomplished what takes most parishes a year, because they got a head start.

"We've found that you have already been doing things around here and we're pleased because we don't have to do as much," Department of Environmental Quality Geologist and Drinking Water Protection Program Team member Jesse Means said.

WPDWPC was formed in February from citizens and members of local governmental agencies, with the assistance of the DEQ team.

One major step DEQ and WPDWPC have worked towards is the adoption of ordinances to protect drinking water wellheads. According to Means, local work towards ensuring a safe drinking water supply began before DEQ's arrival.

"Just about every town here is working on that ordinance we're trying to get passed," Means said. "I just found out that Cullen recently passed it. Of course, Minden had it done on their own a while back and (Webster Parish Police Jury) too."

They have also performed many outreach visits to local businesses to educate them on the effects they can have on drinking water.

"The other thing we're trying to finish up is the potential source visits," Means said. "I want to say we had 200 of them. Actually going out and educating different places that are located near water wells that have chemicals associated with them."

Packets are given to the businesses explaining how their processes could negatively affect drinking water and ideally are enlisted to participate in ensuring its protection.

"That's what it takes," Means said. "Letting everybody know that there's stuff you do every day that could have an impact on your water. Either positive or negative."

The ordinances have clauses that regulate potential drinking water contaminators.

"It limits any new potential sources of drinking water contamination," Means said. Any of those cannot be built within 1000 feet of active public water wells."

He said that there is a grandfather clause for existing businesses, but if those businesses expand they will fall under parts of the ordinance.

Businesses that choose to ignore the ordinances face penalties.

"It has teeth to it," Means said. "If somebody is found in violation of it, they can be fined or put in jail."

Signs reading "Drinking Water Protection Area" were placed around every wellhead.

"We put a five mile radius circle around every well and every intake," Means said. "It's a public awareness tool. People drive in and say, 'Okay, we better watch what we're doing here.'"

He said they have also worked closely with local water systems.

"There are so many water systems here, more than 30," Means said. "We have to meet with every one of them to do a contingency plan. Develop a plan of action, which will give them a plan if something were to go wrong with their water supply. We're trying to finalize all that right now."

Means said he anticipated all planned work to be done by the end of June, and then turned to local WPDWPC members for the next step.

"Be thinking about what y'all want to do for the next meeting," he said. "We're getting the core stuff pretty much wrapped up this week, as far as stuff we want to do at DEQ.

"Beyond that, it's really up to y'all as a committee as to what you want to work on or what you want to learn about," Means continued.

It was decided to hold off until August for the next meeting to accommodate vacation schedules. Then members were tasked to generate ideas of how to further protect Webster Parish drinking water.






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