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Ameba testing in St. John continues in June

LAPLACE — Next month will bring another round of water testing in St. John the Baptist Parish, a Department of Heath and Hospitals official confirmed this week.

The testing could bring the parish one step closer to being taken off an Emergency Order.

Upon detection of Naegleria fowleri ameba in St. John Parish’s Water District 1 Aug. 27, DHH issued an Emergency Order requiring the parish perform a free-chlorine burn — maintaining 1.0 mg/l of free chlorine throughout the system for 60 days — in efforts to kill the ameba within the system.

DHH ruled St. John Parish successfully completed its required chlorine burn for St. John Water District 1 — which serves six parish schools and more than 12,500 people in Reserve, Garyville, Mt. Airy and a small portion of LaPlace — on Nov. 20, and on Dec. 3 a follow-up water sample was taken.

The December sample showed no presence of ameba.

DHH Chief Deputy Engineer Caryn Benjamin said the next round of testing should take place June 9, when water temperatures rise to the required degree needed for analysis.

“We expect the water temperature to reach 20 degrees Celsius by June 8,” Benjamin said.

The temperature equates to 68 degrees Fahrenheit, and Benjamin said research shows a temperature of at least that warmth is needed for ameba detection, if present, in water systems.

Results of the testing would be known two weeks after the sample is taken, Benjamin said, adding if a sample were drawn June 9 results would be available June 23.

After the December round of testing showed no presence of ameba, Benjamin said “the Emergency Order is still in place, and will be in place for at least 12 months after completion of all action items.”

She said two additional rounds of water sampling and analysis — one in the summer and the second taking place some time after — were important tests for the parish and Water District 1 to pass.

Benjamin said testing is planned for June and September, adding DHH continues monthly, on-site monitoring to ensure adequate disinfectant levels are found in all parish water systems.

After the June and September rounds of sampling, DHH will “revisit the parish’s compliance history and a 12-month clock would start,” Benjamin said about a timeline to lift the Emergency Order.

The timeline means the Emergency Order would be lifted nearly two years after it was first issued, assuming all action items are completed and all testing is passed.

While the water in Water District 1 remains safe to drink, Benjamin said residents should continue to adhere to safety protocol, including avoiding water entering deep into nasal passages and running bath and shower taps and hoses for five minutes before use to flush out the pipes.