In the tiny town of St. Joseph, La., a local preacher has temporarily suspended baptisms, figuring that if officials don’t want people drinking the tainted water, he ought not to be plunging them into it, either.
“I just don’t feel comfortable immersing people in that water,” Pastor Donald Scott told the Advocate, a Baton Rouge newspaper, recently. “I’m pretty sure God understands.”
For years, the mostly poor, mostly black, rural seat of Tensas Parish in northeastern Louisiana has struggled with aging infrastructure and deteriorating water quality. The system is plagued with leaks. Often, what flows from households’ taps is brown and smelly, the result of high levels of iron and manganese, and residents have grown accustomed to regular notices to boil their water.
But it recent weeks, the problems have deepened significantly.