A look at Powhatan’s water system one year later

Local

We revisit a small Louisiana town that’s plagued with a decades-long water problem. A year later a solution is still not in sight.

Generations of people in the rural town of Powhatan in Natchitoches Parish have lived with brown water. Most do not drink it or wash their clothes with it, instead relying on bottled water which can be costly.

“I would like to see done is better water here in our community,” said Margie Davenport, Powhatan resident.

The Louisiana Department of Health said it’s not toxic but minerals and groudwater causes the discoloration. The town can’t add more cholorine to lighten the color because of state mandated levels. So they’re left with tinted water.

We spoke with Davenport last year. She once served as the town’s mayor and speaks out about what she calls a neglected system that’s gotten even worse over the years.

“I know this is a small town but people still live here. It’s just not right. It’s not being done right,” Davenport said.

More than a year ago, Governor John Bel Edwards established a Rural Water Infrastructure Committee to work with with local governments and federal agencies to identify water problems and find solutions. Powhatan was ruled as one of the most distressed in the state. So after a year what did the committee find?

“There’s too many variables going on and in that particular area we would really like to see some discussion on consolidating,” said Leslie Durham, Rural Water Infrastructure Committee.

Durham said they’ve sent an engineer to look for solutions and consolidating with a larger, neighboring system may be the way to fix it. But the catch is any solution will take years to implement because of the legal and financial process. 

“It’s taken awhile to get to this point and does it awhile to get out of it. We’d love to just say ok let’s hand shake it and be done with it but there’s all kinds of other things that have to take place so it does take some time regardless of any other variables,” Durham said.

Davenport said she’s lived in Powhatan her whole life and wants to see real solutions happen for her grandchildren. 

“I don’t think it should take years. This is people’s health,” Davenport said.

Until those solutions become concrete, the small town will continue seeing the brown water flowing out of their faucets.

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