BATON ROUGE - At the direction of Governor John Bel Edwards, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have joined together to review concerns about water quality in the St. Joseph Water System in Tensas Parish. The water quality problems in Tensas Parish pre-date the Edwards Administration; however, Gov. Edwards began evaluating possible solutions upon taking office.

“The health and safety of the residents of St. Joseph is of utmost concern,” said Gov. Edwards. “I have asked DHH to partner with the EPA and other agencies to address this long-running issue as quickly as possible. While the current situation does not pose an immediate health risk to the residents, it does require our attention after years of neglect. I am committed to working with our state and federal partners to secure funding to make these repairs as quickly as possible.”

Last week, at the direction of Gov. Edwards, Louisiana’s State Health Officer, Dr. Jimmy Guidry, led a meeting of state and local officials concerning the St. Joseph Water System. This meeting included the mayor of St. Joseph and representatives from the city’s engineering firms, the DHH, the Division of Administration (DOA), the EPA, and Louisiana Senator Francis Thompson’s office.

As part of the administration’s next steps to address this issue, Dr. Guidry will meet with officials from DOA’s facilities and planning, and with state legislators to determine the best path forward to securing the necessary funding. Following those meetings, Dr. Guidry will report back to the Governor’s Office.

State and Local Coordinated Response:

DHH and Region 6 EPA in Dallas are working closely to address citizens’ concerns and the complaints about the water system. The agencies and St. Joseph’s leadership met last week and will convene another meeting later this week to discuss solutions to make improvements to the water system and what types of funding are available to address the issues.

Listed below are the next steps being taken by DHH and the City of St. Joseph:

  1. Immediately assist the city to take the necessary steps to begin receiving funds – up to $1.2 million – from the Capital Outlay appropriation.
  2. Long Term: Access the availability of any remaining Capital Outlay funds. To access the funds, the project must be prioritized as a Level 1 priority. The funds for St. Joseph are currently designated as a Level 5 priority.