This op-ed by Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) first appeared in The Farmerville Gazette on June 17, 2021.
When winter storms hit our state this February, they wrecked water pipes and took out power in communities across northeast Louisiana. People in parts of Ouachita Parish lived under a boil advisory for almost a week, and roughly 50,000 Louisianians in 11 northeast parishes suffered through boil advisories as well.
In fact, these storms left more than one million Louisianians—approximately a quarter of our state’s population—without access to clean water for at least a week.
Boil advisories have plagued Louisiana communities for longer than the Israelites wandered in the desert, and they’re not limited to natural disasters. In the past six years, Louisiana experienced almost 10,000 of these alerts. More than 1,900 were system-wide advisories, meaning they often affected entire communities. In the last year alone, Louisianians had to endure 1,630 boil advisories, 341 of which were system-wide.
Louisiana’s northeast parishes know that boil advisories aren’t just a minor inconvenience. They’re a major disruption to daily life. When a public water system issues a boil advisory, Louisiana families have to drop what they’re doing so they can boil water to drink, cook, and wash up or rush to the store to buy bottled water.
I want to help make sure Louisianians living in places like Richland, Caldwell, Franklin, LaSalle, and Union Parishes have more reliable access to their drinking water. In just the last few weeks, water systems in these parishes alone issued at least five boil advisories.
To improve our water systems, we need to understand what triggers these boil advisories. That’s why I just introduced an amendment to the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act of 2021 that would help us identify the underlying issues here.
This amendment would require the Environmental Protection Agency to write an annual report on how many boil advisories affect Louisiana and the U.S. This report would also document the reasons that public water systems issued those boil advisories. With that information in hand, states would be better equipped to prevent low pressure or contamination in our water systems.
While it’s hard to forge true bipartisanship in Washington these days, senators on both sides of the aisle saw that we need to take a deeper dive into this issue. My amendment received unanimous support and passed the Senate as part of the water infrastructure bill. That means it’s now up to the House of Representatives to do its job so we can get the plan to the president’s desk.
I’m urging lawmakers in the House to do just that because Louisianians deserve to have confidence that there’s no debris or disease in their water. The problem is real, the solution is simple, and there’s no time to lose.