Chlorine levels meet state guides to kill amoeba
Mon, 2013-10-14 15:23
We are currently testing and monitoring extensively throughout the system.
By PRESTON GILL
MORGAN CITY — Water systems in St. Mary Parish maintain minimum chlorine levels sufficient to eliminate biological contaminants such as the brain-eating amoeba that has been found in water systems in St. Bernard and DeSoto parishes.
Residual chlorine levels of 0.5 milligrams per liter throughout drinking water distribution lines are key to eliminating biological contaminants such as the Naegleria fowleri amoeba, according to new Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals recommendations issued Tuesday. The current mandated level is 0.2 mg/L but the state may increase that. The maximum chlorine leaving the treatment plant allowed by DHH is 4.0 mg/L.
Supervisors from water systems with minimum standards on the east end of St. Mary Parish said they range from 0.2 to 0.5 mg/L. All the systems’ minimum levels, when tested, exceed the new recommendations, they said.
J.T. Lane, health department undersecretary, who is in charge of the Office of Public Health, said standards below the newly recommended 0.5 mg/L will need to be raised.
Lane said a common element in St. Bernard and Desoto parishes was their use of chloraminated water systems; a combination of chlorine and ammonia which the Environmental Protection Agency said is longer lasting and has fewer byproducts and health risks; but not as strong as chlorine-only disinfectants.
Five systems in east St. Mary Parish are among the 85 total chloraminated water systems in Louisiana, according to a DHH email.
Murphy Arcemont, manager of the Morgan City Water Plant, said Morgan City does not have a preset minimum standard, but minimum levels in Morgan City run from 2.5 to 3.0 mg/L, enough to have always passed bacteria count tests.
Morgan City Mayor Frank Grizzaffi said the city began a voluntary assessment of the water system here.
“We are currently testing and monitoring extensively throughout the system,” Grizzaffi said.
Lane said the end of water systems, where fresh water may not be constantly flowing, need to be flushed more often to keep their water clean.
The superintendent of St. Mary Parish Waterworks District 5 in Centerville, Gerald “Jimmie” Miller, said his system supplies water as far away as 22 miles from the plant and the far reaches are purged often. Miller has a computerized chlorine level monitoring system and said the minimum chlorine level varies from 0.5 to 1.0 mg/L at the far ends of the system.
The Berwick-Bayou Vista Water Works Commission raised its minimum standard of chlorine content to 0.5 mg per liter last month, plant superintendent Timothy Merritt said.
“We raised the minimum level, but we were never that low,” Merritt said. “In Bayou Vista we run about 0.9 mg/L and in Berwick our minimum chlorine level runs about 1.8 to 2.0 mg/L.”
Patterson Water Plant manager Sharon Guillum said Patterson’s chlorine minimum is 0.4 mg/L but the system minimum is usually around 0.7 mg/L. She said the plant will increase its minimum levels if the state changes its regulations.
St. Mary Parish Water Sewerage Commission 1 plant operator Larry Barras said the Amelia system has a minimum standard of 0.2 mg/L which it always exceeds. He said the chlorine content is tested twice a week and water lines are purged two or three times a week.
Lane said, “The department will work with each of these systems in order to determine the best way and length of time for reaching the 0.5 milligrams per liter requirement.”
The brain-eating amoeba is a naturally occurring organism found in the soil and in slow moving warm waters which includes lakes, ponds, bayous and even swimming pools if they are untreated, Lane said. The organism cannot survive the acidity in the stomach so there is no danger from the bacteria by drinking the water, it becomes a danger when the water is inhaled and travels through the sinuses to the brain.
Since 1962 there have been 132 cases in the country of infection from the amoeba, making it a rare occurrence, Lane said.
Miller recommends people with questions go to the state website www.dhh.la.gov/waterfacts.
How can families protect themselves?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, personal actions to reduce the risk of the amoeba infection should focus on limiting the amount of water going up a person’s nose and lowering the chances it may be in the water.
To prevent any risk when using drinking water, make sure water does not go up your nose.
Suggestions from the CDC include:
—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 put your head under bathing water.
—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.
—Keep swimming pools adequately disinfected before and during use. Adequate disinfection means: free chlorine at 1 to 3 parts per million and pH levels from 7.2 to 7.8.