From: Associated Press
Published May 15, 2007 12:00 AM

Fecal Bacteria on Rise in Louisiana Bayous

HOUMA, La. -- Fecal coliform bacteria, found in human and animal waste, has grown to unsafe levels in some Terrebonne and Lafourche parish area bayous.


The bacteria get into local waterways because of nearby cattle farms, the high number of nutria that live in marshes and bayous, and from clogged septic systems at private homes.


The Department of Environmental Quality is spearheading an effort to study bacteria levels in Bayou Lafourche, which supplies much of Terrebonne and Lafourche with drinking water. Health officials advise against swimming in area bayous, particularly if you have cuts, scrapes or open sores.


The water coming into local homes is safe to drink because chemicals used to treat water in municipal plants eliminate any bacterial threat, said Department of Environmental Quality spokesman Howard Fielding.


Local officials are hoping to improve water quality with efforts that include water testing and a mandated inspection process.


Fielding said he eventually hopes to ask the Lafourche Parish Council to hire septic-system inspectors and maybe even fine violators.


"We're not there yet," he said. "We have some more work to do before we get to that stage. Right now we're trying to get our ducks in a row."


Al Levron, Terrebonne Parish's public-works director, agrees that inspectors are probably the only way to curb contamination, adding he thinks federal money will be needed to make that happen.


"It's essentially a financial problem," Levron said. "We either need federal grants for the construction of a new public sewerage system or to pay for parishwide inspectors. Both options will be expensive."


In the meantime, chemicals will be used to make the water safe for human consumption, an option that makes water treatment increasingly expensive.


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Information from: The Courier, http://www.houmatoday.com


Source: Associated Press


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