Why several Leesville residents are calling their "drinking water" a health hazard

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LEESVILLE, La. (KALB) - The multiple waterline breaks in Leesville are quickly becoming the talk of the town, and several residents are calling it a health hazard.

Broken waterlines in Leesville | Credit: KALB

"We've had enough," Kathy Simon, a fed-up Leesville resident, said. "I absolutely, do not feel safe drinking that water, and I do not think you will find anyone that feels safe."

The waterline breaks are a result of a construction project taking place in Leesville. Currently, the city is in the process of laying down gas lines, forcing them to dig right next to the city's waterlines.

The contractor over the project, CenterPoint, and despite receiving a map of the city's current waterlines, construction workers continue to hit them.

"I think that right now the mayor really needs to step up and he needs to say enough," Simon stated. "No more digging. Until we can get a handle on this, and you can guarantee us that no more of our waterlines are going to be broken."

However, Rick Allen, the Mayor of Leesville said he does not have the authority to stop CenterPoint.

"The City of Leesville doesn’t like it either, but these lines that they are installing are on a public easement," Allen responded. "The contractor works for Centerpoint. They do not work for the City of Leesville and as I already mentioned Centerpoint is operating within a utility easement. So, they do not have to have our permission to change out those lines."

Allen also works in the construction business, and he believes these waterline breaks are the result of construction workers taking shortcuts.

"Whenever I go out, we do a lot more shovel work," Allen stated. "Because I simply don't want to hit lines."

While digging with your hands can be a nuisance, it's a safe and diligent way around the waterlines.

In a statement, CenterPoint acknowledged two occasions where a waterline sustained damage. Citing words such as "a digging machine cracked a plastic waterline."

However, according to residents and city officials, this took place on more than two occasions.

"If it happened one time, maybe it’s a mistake," Simon explained. "Two times you start to wonder. Three times, you got a pattern going now."

In a follow-up statement, CenterPoint further explained their digging process. The statement said construction workers need to call before they dig. Further, the statement explained the use of non-mechanized equipment when within 18 inches of underground facilities.

"Another question I had too is every time a water main breaks," Simon asked. "It’s the city workers who come out to fix it, and I would like to know who is reimbursing the city?"

When asked, Allen said the city will file for reimbursement from CenterPoint.

"Absolutely, if they hit a line that is clearly marked, then the city will seek restitution on that line and an estimated loss of water," Allen answered.

Allen says there will be back-charges for several strikes. However, according to Allen, CenterPoint did bring in a new supervisor to oversee the project.

"We raised concerns and immediately CenterPoint brought us in a new contact," Allen stated. "So, we are very comfortable with him. He's doing a good job, I've seen an improvement in the communication between the city and this contractor, and I've also seen a drastic drop in utility strikes."

In the meantime, Simon says she's still keeping her bottled water close by because according to her, you never know when the next strike might happen.

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