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Lawsuits follow after sewage found in Louisiana town's water taps
PINEVILLE, Louisiana (CNN) -- Residents did not knowingly drink sewage-contaminated water, but that is what flowed from faucets in hundreds of homes in the central Louisiana town of Pineville for more than two months.
Some affected residents are outraged, lawsuits are being filed and bottled water sales are on the rise.
Tap water was the color of mud at Zelma McCoy's home a couple of months ago.
"I had stomach cramps and a couple days it put me in the bed to where I just didn't feel like doing anything," remembers McCoy.
The water reeked at Christy Chua's house. "Whenever we'd take a shower it really smelled," she recalled.
The women are among 350 residents of the Walden Point subdivision who learned they drank and bathed in raw sewage for months.
Officials believe it happened because city work crews, making utility connections to a new building, mistakenly attached a sewer line from that building to the water main.
As a result, officials say pulverized threads of toilet paper came out of kitchen faucets and excrement built up in water heaters. But it took weeks for the city to discover the source of the problem.
"It was a mistake. It was a mistake, there's no doubt about that," said Pineville Mayor Clarence Fields, noting that the water and sewer lines are about the same size and are unmarked.
Residents were temporarily ordered to boil drinking water, and the city replaced a number of water heaters and flushed the system.
Two lawsuits have been filed so far. However, health officials said that despite residents' complaints, water samples show no signs of bacteria and there have been no illnesses confirmed.
"The fact that it could happen may be disgusting, but so far there's been no medical evidence of anybody getting sick or having any problems because of this," said Dr. John Naponick of the Louisiana Office of Public Health.
Meanwhile, Fields faces in his re-election campaign former Mayor Fred Baden, who happens to be a plumber.
"It goes back to inexperience, with people not paying attention to their job," said Baden about the tainted water episode.
Like many of her neighbors, meanwhile, the sewer flap has prompted McCoy to start using bottled water for drinking and cooking.
"I'm just afraid right now and I know it's going to be a long time before I trust that water again," said McCoy.
But some experts believe consumers across the country have little to worry about in regards to their drinking water.
There are 55,000 water systems in the United States, supplying drinking water to the nation's residents, according to the American Water Works Association.
Most of those systems report few, if any, problems, according to the international nonprofit scientific and educational society dedicated to the improvement of drinking water quality.
Correspondent Charles Zewe contributed to this report.
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American Water Works Association
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