St. John Parish schools bottled water bill so far during amoeba crisis: $17,426

Fox 8 Photo
Fox 8 Photo

LAPLACE, LA (WVUE) - o make sure a deadly amoeba in the St. John Parish water system doesn't get up kids noses, water fountains are roped off, and tens of thousands of dollars will be spent on bottled water for students at St. John Parish schools as the parish performs at 60-day chlorine burn.

The school district doesn't know if it will get the money back.

"These children here are our children, and we treat them as such. So we wanted to be overly cautious in what we did for the school system," said St. John Schools Superintendent Kevin George.

Being cautious is the best method according to world-renowned consumer advocate Erin Brockovich's chief environmental investigator, who said their team is looking into Centers for Disease Control drinking water guidelines across the country.

On Tuesday, FOX 8 asked Environmental Investigator Bob Bowcock, "Can you tell us again your reaction when someone says you can drink the water but you can't get it up your nose?"

Bowcock replied, "That is absolutely the most outrageous comment I've ever heard."

Out of caution, when the state discovered amoeba in the Water District 1 two weeks ago, the school district switched to bottled water, and now to water dispensers. George said the bills are already adding up.

"Right now we have a bill of $17,426 that we've spent thus far, and of course every week that this goes on, it'll add to that cost," said George.

Parish President Natalie Robottom told the press she believes it was employee error that lead to low chlorine levels.

George said schools will likely not be reimbursed by the parish unless a state of emergency is declared.

"I think anything that this parish can do to help any of our schools, or businesses, our residents, we need to step up and take care of, it's our job. It's our responsibility," said St. John Council Member Cheryl Millet.

At Tuesday's Parish Council meeting, council members asked the St. John administration why a state of emergency hadn't been declared in order to get more resources to help pay for bottled water and water bills, but they didn't get an answer.

"No, we did not receive any response from the administration. I don't know why. Hopefully this will be done for the benefit of all," said Millet. "I had a lady tell me yesterday, my dogs drinking water out of the pool because I can't afford to give my dog bottled water. These are the problems that are real and going on every day and these are the problems we need to address and help out with."

No matter the cost, St. John schools will continue to provide the water dispensers for students in the hall and at sports practices until the chlorine burn is over.

FOX 8 reached out to Robottom's office for comment. At 5:10 a spokesperson sent the following:

Upon receipt of the Emergency Administrative Order, representatives with GOHSEP were contacted for guidance in making a decision on declaring a State of Emergency.  Because the water was deemed safe for consumption by DHH and the CDC, there was not sufficient justification to make a declaration.  Additionally, there were no damages to the water system that would allow the parish to meet the monetary threshold to qualify for state assistance.  Declaring a State of Emergency locally would only give the Parish President special administration or purchasing powers and this was not deemed necessary at this time.

While residents are using caution by drinking bottled water, please note the water remains safe to consume. Please do not get water deep into your nasal cavity.

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