Residents question time frame of notification about amoeba

Houma residents on amoeba: What took notice so long?

TERREBONNE PARISH, LA (WVUE) - Water potentially contaminated with the so-called "brain-eating" amoeba may have made it into parts of Lafourche Parish. Officials confirm that they bought water from Terrebonne's Schriever plant, the same one that health officials say has the amoeba. It was purchased for residents in the Marydale subdivision, Grand Bois and Romero subdivision.

Lafourche says the water is safe to drink, but they urge residents to avoid getting water in their noses.

"I was very concerned. I had eye surgeries, and have tubes in my eyes," Patricia Rochford said.

As she stocked up on bottled water in Houma Tuesday,  Rochford had one question: Why did it take 12 days to find out that the amoeba had been found in the Terrebonne water system?

"Wow, two weeks to get the results from the test. I'm a little dubious about that," she said.

The amoeba was reported to the media Monday afternoon, 12 days after it showed up in a test of the water system in Pointe Aux Chenes in far southern Terrebonne parish at the end of the line.

"It's just at the end it's not a heavily used section of the water, it stays in the system longer," said Michael Sobert with the Terrebonne Parish Consolidated Water District.

Sobert said that line is frequently flushed, and water officials are now pumping in a combination of chemicals to rid the lines of the amoeba.

"A chloramine system uses chlorine and ammonia in a four to one ration. It's been found that the disinfectant lasts longer, produces fewer byproducts," Sobert said.

The discovery has provoked a variety of reactions, with many avoiding bathing.

"I was scared, I was scared to take a bath," said Terrebonne High School student Ahmyri Davis.

"No I didn't want it to get in my eyes or my nose," said student Quinn Anderton.

Public water fountains are now shut down in government buildings and at parish schools.

"They turned them off and gave out water at lunch," Anderton said.

But officials insist that the water is safe.

"The water is safe to drink. What the water is not necessarily safe is to inject up your nose," Sobert said.

As for the delayed notification, officials say tests take time.

"The 12-day difference is because that's how long it takes to do the tests," Sobert said. "This is not CSI."

Two years ago, a 4-year-old boy died in St Bernard Parish after being exposed to the amoeba while playing on a Slip N Slide. So far, there are no reports of anyone being infected this year.

The discovery of the amoeba in Terrebonne means that three Southeast Louisiana parishes are now combating the problem. The ongoing chlorine burn in St. Bernard Parish has prompted council members to consider a credit to water and sewer customers. The credit would compensate customers for the inconvenience of the chlorine burn, which began last month.

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