Gibsland’s water becomes focus of town hall meeting

Local News

On Friday we brought you a story about the water system in Gibsland after the Louisiana Department of Health sent the town a violation for failing to collect lead and copper samples. So citizens went to town hall Monday night to find out more.

It was lively town hall meeting where people were asking questions about their water system along with some internal politics between the mayor and a new candidate for mayor.

Gibsland received a monitoring violation notice from the Louisiana Department of Health for not collecting lead and copper samples between January and June of this year. 

The Mayor and a public works employee told citizens a broken pump was to blame that prevented samples from being taken. They told people the town is similar to many small towns in Louisiana where they face aging infrastructure. However, the lead and copper levels are not high enough to cause panic.

Public works said they have what is called “aggressive” water with a low pH. The violation notice from the state basically means they need to do something about the levels. So they’re securing an USDA block grant to overhaul and upgrade the water infrastructure. 

“The action level is .0015 milligrams per liter and some of the results we were getting that were over were .002 levels milligrams per liter,” public works told citizens during the meeting. 

“The water in Gibsland, I drink it and I think a lot of people around here drink it. Most everybody around here drinks it and we don’t have a problem with the water. But we’re going to make our water even better once we get this new water system in,” said Eddie R. Thompson Senior, Mayor of Gibsland.

Also during the meeting, people were questioning the motives and living status of a woman named Kelly Day who said she’s running for mayor because she’s concerned about the water. She spoke about information she’s acquired from an engineering firm through the Louisiana Department of Health that shows high levels of lead and copper. Mayor Thompson said her information is false. The Louisiana Department of Health sent this statement. 

“We issued a monitoring violation to the system last week (August 1, 2018) for failure to collect lead/copper samples during the Jan – June, 2018 monitoring period. Gibsland is scheduled to collect 20 samples by the end of the year. The first deadline to respond to the violation is roughly 55 days for submitting proof of public notification.”

The department said it was a violation for a lack of monitoring and did not specify whether it was for high levels of lead and copper. We’ve reached out repeatedly to the department for further comment, but have not heard back yet. 

Residents also asked Day where she lives in the town and said she will not prove to them that she actually lives in Gibsland. Day said she has a dual residence in Gibsland and in Ruston. But declined to give an exact address. She said she’s filed her address with the parish clerk and people can find it there. Day said she’s been harassed online and in-person so she did not want to share her address. She told residents she grew up in Gibsland and moved away when she got older, but returned to fulfill a promise to her grandmother to help better the town. 

“But you took the floor (gavel knock from mayor) I feel like you should introduce yourself because we don’t know who you are,” said one woman to Day. 

Day maintains she’s looking to help the town and parish where her grandfather used to be Sheriff.  Day also set up a Go-Fund-Me to help raise funds for a water infrastructure project. But Mayor Thompson said it was not set up properly and she should have informed town hall first. An alderwoman said the grant money works as a loan payment plan and they did not need Go-Fund-Me donations in the first place. Day said she’s spoken to about 50 residents who are worried about how the water may impact their health.

Overall Mayor Thompson said the rural development block grant will replace all the piping and clear up concerns. It’s still in the environmental assessment phase for the project.

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