The Franklinton Mayor and Board of Aldermen held their regular scheduled meeting last Tuesday at Franklinton Town Hall.
Franklinton's water situation took up a large part of the meeting for the second consecutive time. Mike Curtis from Curtis Environmental stated that his company has been doing work for the Town for many years, mostly sanitary wastewater treatment work, regulatory compliance and environmental regulatory testing. Curtis stated that he came to the meeting at the request of Public Works Superintendent Reginald McMasters to help explain the situation with the Town's water and the LDH administrative order that was recently issued.
Curtis began by saying the water in Franklinton is "great" and anywhere north of Lake Pontchartrain is "fantastic". Curtis stated that in order to fix one problem, other problems are created. The state began enforcing the addition of chlorine in the 90s to disinfect the drinking water. Curtis said chlorine reacts with a lot of other properties in drinking water, such as iron and manganese. The iron produces a "yellowish-orange" water while manganese shows a brownish-black water.
There are things that can be added to the water to prevent some discoloration, but the Town of Franklinton doesn't do that, according to Curtis. He stated that it's better to have a regular flushing program of the lines than adding other chemicals.
Curtis also said the Town has natural occurring ammonia in the water when it comes out of the ground. The amount of ammonia in the Town's water is small, but Curtis stated that "it's not zero either". Chlorine reacts with iron and manganese first and then reacts with ammonia to form chloramine.
Curtis also addressed the Louisiana Department of Health administrative order the Town received several weeks ago. He stated that three of the five issues had to do with ammonia in the water. Curtis said that nothing has changed over the years in the water system. "The difference is that the state now recognizes that you have ammonia in your system and they want you to control and monitor it and that's something you are not set up for; you were not doing that." The other two items pertained to a certified letter that the state never received and an order to put a generator at one of the three wells in town. "The order didn't deal so much with the water quality as it did with paperwork."
"The one thing they hit you hard on was that since June 2019 you've had some violations in your drinking water monitoring," said Curtis. "Since you have chlorine water, they go around town to several different sites and check the chlorine content in your drinking water."
Curtis said in January 2014, the state required a minimum of 0.5 half a part per million in water. The reason for the increase was a case where a child died because of bacteria in water (brain eating amoeba). Through testing, the state determined that ammonia would kill the bacteria. The 0.5 amount must be found at the farthest point from the well. Most systems are being controlled around 1 to keep from dropping below 0.5.
A Franklinton resident challenged Curtis by saying the Town's water isn't great, and has major flaws. She has a full house water filter and the water still comes out with a orange-yellow tint. She also provided pictures and a bottle of water from her home to show the discolored water. "You can say it's safe, but I just don't believe it," she said.
Eventually, Superintendent McMasters said he would get with her the following day. He said an automatic flushing system was a possibility that can be installed to see if that would help. In addition, a filtration system could be put in for the entire town. The downside of this option is a cost of close to $2 million. Covington recently looked at doing this and decided against it because of the cost.
In other business, the Board voted to hire Rita Hawthorne as the Town's utility clerk. Ms. Hawthorne had been working part-time for the town for approximately six months due to an opening that came available. The position was advertised in The Era-Leader for the proper amount of time before the Board made this hire.
The Board approved a request from the police department to make an emergency hire. Sgt. Brandon Manning is taking a School Resource Officer position and the department is in need of a replacement for his position.
A retirement letter from Penny Keegan, the Town's Payroll and Utility Clerk, was accepted at Tuesday's meeting. The Board followed by voting to advertise for the Payroll and Utility Clerk position.
Paquita Thomas with Footprints to Pathways addressed the Board. She stated that the new group was started after the Fair City Showstoppers showed so much success since 2007. Ms. Thomas would pick up young girls who were on the streets and helped train them into a successful dance team that won awards in the Washington Parish Fair parade and other events. She stated that she was asking for the Board's support and advised them she plans to request an audit for all recreational funds received since 2010 as part of research for new parks and other activities for children. Ms. Thomas said she wanted to provide a life for children that doesn't include jail or selling drugs. In the last 12 years, she has worked with these girls at no cost to them while often spending her own money. She stated that she can no longer do this and can't continue to open her mother's home as a dance studio. She is in the process of applying for a 501©(3) for Footways to Pathways.
The Board of Aldermen meet on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month at 6:30 PM in the Chambers at Town Hall in Franklinton. The public is encouraged to attend.