SLIDELL -- Several Slidell neighborhoods were cleared to drink their water again after spending four-and-a-half days under a boil water advisory, but before that, some residents say there was a problem they hadn't been told about.
Rachel Neal has been serving her dog bottled water since last week, after what she and her husband experienced in their River Landings home.
“We were taking a shower and our eyes were burning,” Neal said.
Over in The Landings neighborhood, Melanie Richmond noticed a similar heavy chlorine smell in her water. After a lack of water pressure for several days, Richmond says the chlorine was so strong that her toilet water, usually a deep blue from a cleaning tablet, was almost clear.
“I have a three-year-old, I’ve been scared to bathe her,” Richmond said. “It’s kind of hard to keep a toddler from ingesting water when they’re playing in the bathtub.”
After talking with neighbors, both women started hearing about children and pets getting sick from drinking the water. All the while, not hearing anything from Tammany Utilities about why.
That changed Friday, when the parish-run system issued a boil water notice in anticipation for repairs to a broken pump.
That’s when residents started asking what was going on before that notice and why they weren’t informed. Were they exposed to dangerous water quality?
“We didn’t want to disrupt service to those folks,” said Ronnie Simpson, spokesman for St. Tammany Parish. “We wanted them to continue to have safe drinking water.”
The parish says that when the pump broke, instead of completely shutting off the water for days, the service lines were switched to a secondary system. The switch caused the drop in pressure and the chlorine increase, but the parish says neither went below or above required safety limits for state and federal agencies. The boil water notice came in to play when the repair work began.
Residents we spoke with say that should have been shared with them from the start.
I feel like you need to let your customers know what’s going on and what to expect, because then it’s not a surprise and then we’re not concerned,” Neal said.
The parish says they try to limit their outreach to customers to strictly public health emergencies to avoid over-informing them about all the work that’s constantly going on, but they’re asking for any issues to always be called in instead of just shared on social media.
They’re also asking all residents to sign up for the parish’s alert system. Click here to sign up.