Health officials, parish president are targets of criticism at St. John water meeting

RESERVE, LA (WVUE) - The president of St. John the Baptist Parish was on the hot seat Tuesday night as residents sounded off about the quality of their drinking water and whether missteps led to the problem.

At times, the meeting of about 200 people at the Regala Gymnasium on Airline Highway degenerated into a shouting match.

"It's nasty," said St. John resident Mary Hampton. "I don't cook with it. I'm afraid to take a bath in it."

The parish is sterilizing the system almost two months after Naegleria fowleri - also called the "brain-eating amoeba" - was found in Water District 1, which serves communities at the end of the water line.

Public distrust remains high as health officials try to eradicate the problem.

"I don't believe you all, I don't trust you all," said resident Harrison Rogers. "Not a one of y'all. Not with my life."

Parish President Natalie Robottom said she couldn't address many of the residents' concerns because of the ongoing state attorney general's investigation into the parish's water testing procedures and emergency response. She sat silent as some residents let loose.

"You know who the problem is, it resides with our parish president who wasn't doing what she was supposed to be doing," said resident Joyce Smith.

Though the amoeba was found in St. John Parish in August, there were no deaths. There have been three deaths in other parts of the state - two of the victims were using neti pots, which forces water through the nose, and one was a child playing on a water slide.

The parish still maintains that the water is safe to drink, but cautions against getting it deep into the nasal passage. The chlorine burn of the parish's water system will continue until mid-November. After that, health officials promise more rigorous testing.

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