Robeline, Marthaville seek long-term fix to water woes

Published: Jan. 5, 2017 at 11:17 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 5, 2017 at 11:42 PM CST
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NATCHITOCHES, LA (KSLA) - Federal, state and local officials paid a visit to Natchitoches Parish with the hot-button issue being the major water issues in Robeline and Marthaville.

As KSLA first reported last month, Delta Regional Authority approved a $27,000 grant that temporarily got the water flowing again to Robeline-Marthaville Water System's 481 customers after they'd had to do without for weeks.

On Thursday, officials talked a permanent fix with some Marthaville residents also in attendance.

Don and Wanda Perez, who moved to Marthaville from South Louisiana four years ago, told KSLA News 12 these water issues are new to them.

And while they're thankful to have water back on, they said it still needs purifying.

"It's not drinkable. It's not cook-able. All we can do is wash and use the commode. That's it," Don Perez said.

For a long-term solution, Robeline-Marthaville Water System leaders met in the basement of the Natchitoches Parish Courthouse with representatives of the U.S. Agriculture Department, Delta Regional Authority and the Louisiana Rural Water Association.

"Just kind of mingle together and see what is best for the customers of the system," Robeline-Marthaville Water System President Tommy O'Con said.

The association compared Robeline-Marthaville's water system to two others of similar size in the area. That comparison shows Robeline-Marthaville's annual operating costs are more than $60,000 higher.

"To me, there's your problem," LRWA energy field technician Clarence Beebe told those gathered for the meeting. "All the money you would be putting in reserves is going to just exorbitant operational costs."

The options for a permanent fix discussed during the meeting involve cutting those operational costs to upgrade the water system or hook into another system nearby like Sabine Parish Water District, which already serves 1,600 customers.

"We got good water and we got a lot of it, and we're willing to share our resources," Sabine Parish Water District President Walter Mains said.

LRWA numbers also point to how the Robeline-Marthaville Water System charges customers a minimum rate of $34 for up to 2,000 gallons, which is more than double what the other systems charge.

USDA Rural Development Area Director Reinette Foster said more of the finances for Robeline-Marthaville Water System will need to be settled moving forward, citing that the system owes more than $35,000 to the department.

Whatever permanent change comes, O'Con told KSLA News 12, customers will not see any rate increases.

"I don't think the rates will increase at all for the customers.So I think they're going to work out a solution where it's going to be feasible for everybody."

Now the water board will spend the next 30 days looking at all the options on the table.

"It's in the engineer's hands," Delta Regional Authority designee Leslie Durham said. "He will do a feasibility study to look at all the options and present them to the board."

Wanda Perez told KSLA News 12 she hopes these studies will actually lead to concrete change.

"They need more information about this, they need more test results. They need this, they need that. But every time we go back to a meeting, they don't have that information available," she said.

"I'm happy that at least everyone there seems to be genuinely working to try to restore some decent water."

Robeline-Marthaville Waster System leaders told KSLA News 12 it could take 60 to 90 days to compile all the studies and the data in order to make an informed decision.

O'Con said they will lay out more information for the public at the water board's next public meeting, a date for which has not yet been set.

Meantime, the temporary water pressure pump installed before Christmas can last several years, O'Con said.

And water system's boil advisory was lifted at 1 p.m. Jan. 4.

Some customers, however, told KSLA News 12 they choose to continue boiling their water.

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