Researcher is concerned some neighbors could be exposed to high lead levels in drinking water

GF Default - Public meeting on well water quality
GF Default - Public meeting on well water quality
Published: Dec. 19, 2018 at 11:08 AM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) -A LSU Health researcher says some people in New Orleans could be exposed to high levels of lead in their drinking water.

Jane Katner says it took 72 hours after a lead service line replacement in front of her home to get this notice from the Sewerage and Water Board.

"I have an 11 year old son; that's what concerns me," said homeowner Jane Katner. She says her son’s primary source of hydration is New Orleans tap water. That’s why she immediately called her sister when she heard that the lead service line leading to her home was replaced. Her sister just happens to be LSU Health researcher, Dr. Adrienne Katner, who has studied lead in New Orleans drinking water for years.

"They should have told her how to flush, they should have told her about filters, she didn't have a filter at the time so that is a big concern," said LSU Public Health researcher Adrienne Katner, D.Env., M.S. What happened in front of Jane Katner’s home is called a partial lead service line replacement. When that happens, the Sewerage and Water Board replaces its side of the line that carries water from the main pipeline to your house; but not the portion of the line that’s on private property. That lead pipe is left in place, unless the homeowner replaces it on their own.

Last year, the New Orleans Inspector General issued a scathing report about the Sewerage and Water Board saying neighbors may have been unknowingly exposed to elevated levels of lead in their drinking water. The report said the utility failed to alert residents about that risk and didn’t comply with industry best practices by giving neighbors information on how to protect themselves.

"Because I am familar with my sister's work in this city I really know how to advocate and what's happening in other neighborhoods," said Jane Katner. Doctor Katner advised her sister to get a filter, and she even tested her sister’s water for lead. She’s waiting on those results. But, she tells us testing she’s done over the years shows partial lead service line replacements can cause dangerous spikes in water lead levels.

"That is dangerous because you can increase the levels of lead going into your water for days to weeks to months," said Dr. Katner. "If you have a baby that you are bottle feeding you don't want that, that can go through the aerator filter and that can expose the child to a big dose of lead." Doctor Katner and her sister are both concerned about other infrastructure projects happening across the city right now.

"My concern is that they're doing 400 miles of road work right now because of FEMA money that they got so this is going on all over the city," said Dr.Katner.

“I would like the New Orleans public to be educated and for them to start a campaign telling them about this infrastructure work that is happening, that is going to disrupt the lead lines in their neighborhoods,” said Jane Katner. In a statement the Sewerage and Water Board says it considers this situation highly unacceptable. It says it was working on the project in partnership with Public Works and a contractor. The statement goes on to say that contractor, ”notified the resident on Lark Street that the work had been completed, but did not notify the resident when the lead line was identified,” said S&WB Communications Director Rich Rainey. We reached out to the contractor and are waiting on a response.

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