Friday, Gov. John Bel Edwards and the Louisiana Department of Health learned that the contracted operator for the Clayton water system in Concordia Parish is no longer operating the water system because the operator has not been paid by the town.
Without an operator, the water will become undrinkable within less than 24 hours. To address the critical situation, Gov. Edwards issued an emergency declaration and directed the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) to issue an emergency contract with the operator, JCP Management, to ensure ongoing operations and assure the customers of Clayton that they continue to have drinking water in their homes.
“Clayton currently has safe and clean drinking water, but without an operator, the water system can suffer a catastrophic mechanical failure and create an imminent public health emergency. That is absolutely something that we do not want to happen, and have the ability to prevent,” said Gov. Edwards.
This emergency contract will cost Louisiana taxpayers in excess of $5,200 per month. Without the state taking this action, the people who rely on this water system would face an immediate public health threat.
In addition to taking this step as a short-term solution, the Louisiana Department of Health, the Rural Water Infrastructure Committee and others are reviewing additional possible actions that can help this water system continue operations. These options include putting the system into receivership, seeking a fiscal administrator to manage both the system and the finances of the town, making an alternative source of drinking water available to the residents or connecting to another nearby water system.
The State is also exploring all options to ensure that the town of Clayton maintains the responsibility for safe drinking water, as well as for any costs associated with addressing this health emergency.
“I encourage the leaders in Clayton to reassess their needs, their ability to cover the costs of those needs and act in the best interest of their residents. Safe drinking water is a necessity and every water system must be properly maintained in order for it to work effectively. We will continue to closely monitor the situation in Clayton and work with all parties involved to ensure that our citizens continue to have safe and clean drinking water," added Gov. Edwards.