Baton Rouge - Beginning this week, the Louisiana Department of Health will begin testing water for every home in the town of St. Joseph.

Throughout the course of the week, each home will receive an empty bottle and instructions to collect a water sample. Residents can choose to collect the sample on their own; can allow state personnel to collect the sample; or can choose not to participate in sampling.

State personnel will be working throughout the community over the next two weeks to distribute bottles and instructions for sampling, as well as collecting samples. Once the collection of water samples is complete, residents will receive individual letters with the testing results. It will take between two and four weeks for residents to receive their testing results.

Should residents have questions, they are advised to call 1-866-280-7287.

The testing is in accordance with the proclamation issued last week by Gov. John Bel Edwards who declared a Public Health Emergency for the town of St. Joseph. Residents are advised to use an alternate source for drinking water. On December 15, 2016 test results conducted by the Office of Public Health showed elevated levels of lead in two samples – a private residence and the Town Hall. Also, there were two other sites with elevated levels of copper – both were private residences. The town of St. Joseph has experienced water problems for years due to the poorly maintained and deteriorating water distribution system. Frequent breaks in the water distribution system provide a potential health risk because of the drop in water pressure.

Out of an abundance of caution, the Louisiana Department of Health recommends that residents use an alternative source of water for personal consumption, including making ice, brushing teeth or using it for food preparation and rinsing of foods.

The Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) has released one month’s supply of bottled water to the town of St. Joseph. Each individual will receive 3 liters of water per day. The bottled water supply will serve as a temporary remedy. A more permanent source will be made available to the town of St. Joseph while construction is underway.