Concerns about amoeba stretch beyond St. Bernard Parish - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Concerns about amoeba stretch beyond St. Bernard Parish


CHALMETTE, La. - The medical director at the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals says "it certainly is a possibility" that amoeba was in the St. Bernard Parish water system in 2011 when a man in his late 20s died of an infection from the parasite.

Now, the concern about someone contracting an infection from amoeba again is not just for St. Bernard Parish.

"We feel like since this is everywhere, you know the amoeba lives in fresh water, that any system that gets a low chlorine level and gets compromised is at risk of having this amoeba," said DHH Medical Director Dr. Jimmy Guidry.

Every parish water system will now be required to maintain its residual chlorine levels at .5mg/L. It's a process St. Bernard Parish finished a few weeks ago, but they found it's easier said than done.

"I couldn't understand why this chlorine level couldn't jump up like all of these areas," said Councilman Ray Lauga, pointing to a map of residual chlorine levels throughout St. Bernard Parish.

The parish increased the amount of chlorine in the system by 100 pounds a day. They are still trying to raise the chlorine level throughout the parish to twice the now-required amount, (1 mg/L) but the south part of old Arabi lags behind.

The orange part of the map shows the chlorine just wasn't reaching that neighborhood.

Lauga says it's because the pipes there are more than 100 years old, and they should be replaced with new PVC pipes.

"Silica buildup that they say takes a lot of residual chlorine out of the water you won't have that on there. So just by replacing the old galvanized lines, that would help with maintaining residual chlorine," said Lauga.

It's a project Lauga first pitched on September 27, 2012.

This week, the St. Bernard Parish Council studied a presentation on where exactly new pipes are being proposed to be replaced. Lauga says the project would cost an estimated $15 million.

The streets in Old Arabi are in the same area where the state found traces of amoeba this summer, and they're just a block away from where a man in his late 20s died from the parasite in 2011.

"The methods of collecting water to find the amoeba, CDC developed that over several years, they didn't find it in 2011 but now with the more sophisticated testing we've now been able to find the amoeba in the drinking water which then requires that we do something to address this," said Guidry.

We asked Guidry if he though the parasite was in the parish system in 2011.

"There's no way to know that because we don't have any information with that," said Guidry. "But, it certainly is a possibility."

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