Despite assuring residents in September that the local water is safe, water districts in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes will be taking extra precautionary measures under new state rules enacted after a brain-eating amoeba killed a child in St. Bernard Parish. Specifically, the regulations require water treatment systems to increase the amount of disinfecting chlorine used to purify local water supplies.

“We are going to bump up our chlorine residuals 1.5 times and go from a mixture of ammonia and chlorine to a straight chlorine burn,” said Mike Sobert, general manager of Terrebonne’s Consolidated Water District 1. “We know from all studies and indications that if you keep the chlorine level at 0.5 (milligrams per liter) or higher it kills this amoeba.” More stringent testing will be done to ensure the disinfectant maintains useful concentrations through the water distribution system.

Drinking water containing the amoeba isn’t harmful, as stomach acid immediately kills the intruder, Sobert added. Experts say the only danger is to people who manage to get the microscopic organism way up their noses. Its only entry to the brain is through minute openings in a bone about level with the top of the eyeball, said Dr. Raoult Ratard, Louisiana’s state epidemiologist.

There have been 132 documented infections from the amoeba since 1962, almost all of them fatal. According to the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, many people think water should test free of the amoeba before they use it, but testing tap water for the amoeba is not as important as making sure that it holds enough chlorine to kill the creature. For more information, please follow the link below.

photo by: Kim Sturmer

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