Looking forward to water _lowres

Advocate file photo by BRYAN TUCK. -- Legislators are considering a bill that would lable some Louisiana towns as speed traps. Among those to come up during the discussion were Krotz Springs, Washington and Woodworth.

KROTZ SPRINGS — In an age when clean water is often taken for granted, residents along La. 105 between Krotz Springs and Melville have had to work for it.

Construction began Monday on a $1 million project to extend waterlines from the Krotz Springs municipal system about 11 miles north of the city, serving a rural area dotted by residential water wells that have shown high levels of arsenic.

“We are having to buy bottled water. We can’t drink it, and we can’t cook with it,” said Sabrina Ellis, who lives north of Krotz Springs and has been a central figure in the effort to extend waterlines into her community.

The project has been driven mainly by residents in the area who came together two years ago to form the St. Landry Parish Water Works District 5 to oversee the project and then pieced together federal and state grants and loans to fund the work.

“It’s really a good example of the people initiating a project and getting it done,” said St. Landry Parish President Bill Fontenot.

Ellis, who works as an office manager, said it was an uphill battle to bring what amounts to a very large project for such a small community.

“Just letting them understand the urgency and how much we needed the water” were some of the challenges the group faced, she said.

Ellis said she became actively involved and stuck with it because “someone had to stand up and do it.”

“It’s personal for me,” she said.

The push for water service started after tests revealed high levels of arsenic in some water wells in the area, said Janie Neely, who lives near Ellis and serves on the Water Works District board with her.

Arsenic, which can naturally occur or be introduced through agricultural or industrial activity, has been linked to cancer and a long list of other ailments.

The arsenic in the St. Landry Parish water wells is believed to be naturally occurring, Neely said, and the only viable option for clean water was to find another source.

“It’s been a long row to hoe, I tell you,” Neely said Monday at a small ceremony to mark the start of construction for the water project.

She said the contract calls for the work to be done in about six months.

Ellis said 186 residents in the area have already signed up for water service and paid their deposit.

The project will extend water service about 11 miles north of Krotz Springs along La. 105.

The bulk of the funding, about $600,000, came from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Ellis said.