Despite report, St. John water safe

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 29, 2014

By Monique Roth

LAPLACE – Amid confusion from recently published reports, St. John the Baptist Parish officials insist the tap water in St. John the Baptist Parish is safe to drink for all residents, including those on the west bank.

The Department of Health and Hospitals recently initiated a new, very comprehensive disinfection rule called the Emergency Rule designed to

elevate chlorine disinfection levels within a water system to further assist with elimination of bacterial contamination. The precautions were imposed after a 4-year-old boy contracted deadly amoeba-causing bacteria and died after a visit to St. Bernard Parish in July 2013.

The St. John Parish Utilities Department said it has followed the Emergency Rule since it was issued on Nov. 6, 2013, and has aggressively chlorinated all water lines and increased testing and sampling of the system as per the new rule. Based on sampling results, it was determined that the west bank water system did not reach 100 percent of the new higher chlorine residual levels for the first month. The parish achieved 80 percent of the new standard on the first attempt in February.

St. John Parish said

it has been working with DHH to obtain approval for enhanced disinfection techniques that will assist in obtaining 100 percent compliance. Approval was obtained on March 24, which is the same day the Emergency Rule compliance report was issued to the public.

“It is important for users in these systems to understand that their water remains safe to drink, even if the system did not comply with the new rule yet,” DHH Secretary Kathy Kliebert said. “The raised chlorination standards are higher than the national standards for drinking water.”

Authorization to conduct enhanced disinfection techniques on the west bank water system was recently granted by DHH to SJBP, however a public service announcement must be issued before initiating the new enhanced disinfection techniques.

A St. John Parish press release stated a temporary switch from chloramines to free chlorine is necessary, as free chlorine is proven to be more effective in eliminating non-pathogenic organisms within distribution pipes. (See the public notice on page 7B).

This temporary switch is scheduled for Wednesday, April 2. St. John officials say residents do not need to boil water or take any other actions because of this switch.

According to a release by the parish, chlorine levels will continue to meet EPA standards during the switch. If a resident notices a chlorine taste or smell in their water, officials say they should collect cold tap water after running the water for two minutes and refrigerate cold tap water in an open pitcher. Within a few hours, the chlorine taste and odor should disappear.

“We have worked closely with DHH since implementation of the Emergency Rule and will continue existing procedures to assure the safety of our potable water,” said St. John Parish President Natalie Robottom. She said water continues to comply with all DHH bacterial standards.

For more information or if you have questions, contact the St. John Parish Utilities Department at 985-651-6800.