During last Tuesday's Franklinton Board of Aldermen meeting, Public Works Superintendent Reginald McMasters addressed everyone in attendance regarding the recently received Administrative Order from the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH).
Superintendent McMasters stated that newspapers and individuals on Facebook were claiming the town has contaminated water and in a water crisis and wanted to set the record straight.
(Editor's note: The Era-Leader's article last week (Aug 26, 2020) regarding this issue did not say Franklinton's water is contaminated. Further, the article made it clear that the Town of Franklinton said the water is safe.)
"It is a disgrace to me, the mayor, this Council, to the citizens of Franklinton, to the state of Louisiana who tests our water on a monthly basis, who grabs our water from raw water to chlorinated water, for someone to put out accusations that we are putting out contaminated water, that we're drinking sewer water," said McMasters.
The superintendent also stated that he understands LDH uses terms of water quality, but assured the residents of Franklinton that the town does not have problems with water quality or a water crisis.
He also stated that it's important that the town get the Bene Street well up and running for the purpose of water volume and supply, but not because there's a problem with water quality. With Hurricane Laura nearby at the time, McMasters noted that the town would have trouble supplying its customers if one of the water wells were to go out.
He also said the state would not let the town supply water to citizens, a hospital, schools, nursing homes and restaurants if there was a problem with contaminated water.
The state takes the water samples to ensure good water quality.
McMasters also didn't understand how the Administrative Order was released to the public before he received it and before the Mayor and Board of Aldermen received it. He did state the order was due to paperwork that wasn't received in time and he took responsibility for this.
The superintendent had 10 copies of the 2019 Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) for anyone who wanted a copy. EPA regulations require that all community water systems prepare and provide a CCR to their customers on an annual basis. The report shows citations, if any. While holding the copies in the air, McMasters stated that there were no citations on the 2019 CCR. Customers may request a copy of the report from the Public Works Department.
Superintendent McMasters also recognized employees from the Public Works Department who were in attendance at Tuesday's meeting.
"What has been said is a slander to them and I thank them for coming," he said. "They're concerned. They work hard to do the things to bring safe drinking water to the citizens of the Town of Franklinton. We work hard and we strive to bring good water quality to our citizens."
McMasters noted that water rates will likely be raised if the town has to change to the system the state wants them to go to. The Public Works Department has been doing everything possible to remain a free system, but any change would likely result in additional rates.
A representative from Owen and White, Inc. was scheduled to attend Tuesday's meeting to speak on water issues, but had to reschedule. Owen and White along with Curtis Environmental Services were scheduled to be in Franklinton Wednesday morning to try and resolve the administrative order.
"I assure you it's not water quality," said McMasters. "I assure you it's not a water crisis."
The water has been tested by the state as well as Curtis Environmental and both have stated that the water has a high amount of ammonia in it when it comes out of the ground. When the ammonia clashes with the chloride, it creates chloramine. If the town goes to a chloramine system, nothing special would change but the name, according to Superintendent McMasters.
"At the most, we would have to add ammonia to the water, which is something I did not want to do as we've tried everything to remain a free system for our citizens," said McMasters.
The order also states that the Mason Street well doesn't have a dedicated standby water supply. This can be corrected with the purchase of a generator for this well.
Several Aldermen commented after Superintendent McMasters completed his talk.
"I will stand beside you and back you," said Aldermen Darwin Sharp. "These men standing here do exactly what Mr. McMasters asks them to. They do not get paid what they should be. Your raise is forthcoming and I'm telling you that right now in front of everybody."
"We're certainly aware that you are underpaid," said Alderman TJ Butler. "We are supporting you 100%."
"The budget is being addressed right now and we are looking at your pay raise," said Alderman John Daniel. "You can rest assured that that's going to be taken care of."