Amoeba Found at St. Bernard Water Sampling Site

Posted in: Crisis Response, Drinking Water News, Health effects, United States Water News, Water Contamination
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Article courtesy of WWLTV | July 23, 2015 | wwltv | Shared as educational material

CHALMETTE, La. — State health officials have confirmed the presence of an amoeba at a leaking sample station in the St. Bernard Parish water system.

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals has asked for the parish to conduct a 60-day chlorine burn to kill off the amoeba in the system. The parish has agreed to comply “out of an abundance of caution.” Two of the seven sites tested positive for the Naegleria fowleri amoeba.

At 6 a.m. Thursday, St. Bernard officials flushed extra chlorine into the system as precautionary measure. Officials with the parish believe that homes are safe from contamination.

“One positive test was at a site at the water treatment plant before the water was treated,” reads a statement from the DHH. “The second positive test occurred at 948 Angela Street, which may have been contaminated by ground water due to a leak at the sampling station.”

“We suspect that something struck the sampling station and crack the pipe in the sampling station, not main water line,” said Dave Peralta, parish president. “What feel has happened, and DHH agrees with us, is that there was some contamination of the water that pooled around the sampling station, not the water line but sampling station.”

Fire hydrants are being opened to flush the system.

Peralta said extensive testing at homes showed water to be clear of contamination, and the ameoba was never residents’ home or in the main water system.

Monthly reports show the water system met the requirements for disinfectant levels, according to the DHH. Five other sites tested negative for the amoeba, and one site “did not meet the required level of disinfectant.”

The water is safe to drink, but residents are urged not to get the water into their nose. That’s how the amoeba is transferred to the brain.

“At this point that’s a decision that the DHH has to make. We trust their expertise in this field. We do we feel that the system is fine and this was an anomaly,” said St. Bernard Parish President David Peralta.

Peralta said a vehicle hit a water sampling site in Arabi, which was never reported to the parish. He said contaminated water leaked into the sampling site but not the entire parish water system.

A state health office spokeswoman said they still need to determine the source of the contamination through testing. The DHH will speak with CDC officials Thursday.

Three deaths have been reported in the last several years in Louisiana to the amoeba. The system no longer tested positive for the amoeba back in February 2014.

The DHH released the following precautions to take when dealing with tap water in St. Bernard Parish:

  • DO NOT allow water to go up your nose or sniff water into your nose when bathing, showering, washing your face, or swimming in small hard plastic/blow-up pools.
  • DO NOT jump into or put your head under bathing water (bathtubs, small hard plastic/blow-up pools); walk or lower yourself in.
  • DO NOT allow children to play unsupervised with hoses or sprinklers, as they may accidentally squirt water up their nose. Avoid slip-n-slides or other activities where it is difficult to prevent water going up the nose.
  • DO run bath and shower taps and hoses for five minutes before use to flush out the pipes. This is most important the first time you use the tap after the water utility raises the disinfectant level.
  • DO keep small hard plastic/blow-up pools clean by emptying, scrubbing and allowing them to dry after each use.
  • DO use only boiled and cooled, distilled or sterile water for making sinus rinse solutions for neti pots or performing ritual ablutions.
  • If you need to top off the water in your swimming pool with tap water, place the hose directly into the skimmer box and ensure that the filter is running. Do not top off the pool by placing the hose in the body of the pool.
  • DO keep your swimming pool adequately disinfected before and during use. Adequate disinfection means:
    oPools: free chlorine at 1 to 3 parts per million (ppm) and pH 7.2 to 7.8, and
    oHot tubs/spas: free chlorine 2 to 4 parts per million (ppm) or free bromine 4 to 6 ppm and pH 7.2 to 7.8.
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