Ascension Parish Water System’s Chlorine Levels Still Too Low To Kill Deadly Amoeba

DONALDSONVILLE, LA (AP) — State health officials say an Ascension Parish water system where a brain-eating amoeba was found last month has not maintained a high enough level of chlorine aimed at ensuring the deadly organism is eliminated.

         Dr. Jimmy Guidry, the health officer with the state Department of Health and Hospitals, tells The Advocate’s David J. Mitchell water in the Ascension Consolidated Utility District No. 1 has not sustained the chlorine level of 1 part per million required for a "chlorine burn."

         Parish officials claimed last week that the burn had already reached the 1 ppm level and that the amoeba had been killed off.

         "Well, that's what they were reporting," Guidry said. "We came out and tested, and we're not in agreement there."

         The finding means it will take longer for the process of the chlorine burn to finish, though state and parish officials say the water remains safe to drink.

         Guidry said the mandated 60-day period for the chlorine burn won't start until the water district maintains a chlorine level of 1 ppm.

         Ken Dawson, the parish chief administrative officer, acknowledged the state's finding and blamed it on a chlorine injection pump that had been incorrectly turned off shortly before the state conducted its test.

         Dawson provided data showing water testing sites had been at or above the standard before the pump mishap and, more recently after DHH's testing, had returned to that required level or higher.

         The state ordered the parish to conduct a 60-day chlorine burn after the amoeba was discovered July 28.

         Water containing the Naegleria fowleri amoeba does pose a risk to people if water gets up someone's nose and has access to a person's brain. Since 2011, three deaths in Louisiana have been attributed to the amoeba, prompting DHH to order the state's water systems to raise their chlorination levels to 0.5 ppm by February 2014. Previously, only trace amounts of chlorine were required.

         Under the chlorine burn, the parish has to double the state level and maintain it for 60 days.

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