For more than a year, state health officials and residents of the small town of St. Joseph, Louisiana, have been worried about discolored tap water tied to aging infrastructure, waiting for an audit to free up funds to update the water system. Last week, the town’s water supply tested positive for high levels of lead and copper in two different locations, which prompted Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards to declare a public health emergency and direct residents to use bottled water instead of tap water. Aging water pipes and infrastructure have concerned health officials for years, according to Dr. Jimmy Guidry, Louisiana State Health Officer. But, in the last year, the state’s health department has stepped up testing to check for lead or other dangerous substances in the water.
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