Amoeba meeting packs St. Bernard chambers

Published: Sep. 24, 2013 at 2:10 AM CDT|Updated: Oct. 1, 2013 at 2:32 AM CDT
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CHALMETTE, La. - Infections are incredibly rare, but that didn't stop the worrying when Julie Vicknair inhaled water during a bath.

"I hope that nothing happens to me and I hope that you protect the people of this parish," she said. "This should have never happened to anyone."

The St. Bernard Parish resident asked what so many people wanted to know: Is the water safe? At a meeting in Chalmette Monday night, a panel of state and federal health officials said it's getting there.

"It's going to take some time for it to move through the system," said engineer John Williams, referring to the chlorine being distributed. "This is a big system, but we have been monitoring and we are seeing the results of this. We do see chlorine levels coming up, free chlorine levels moving out from the plant where it's being distributed and from a booster station located down the parish."

Parish and state officials developed a three-part plan they say will kill the brain-eating amoeba found in the water system. The chlorine burn will continue, sending a stronger form of the chemical through the system until it reaches the very end of the water line.

Those higher levels of chlorine will be maintained for 60 days, and there will be a lot more testing.

"The parish will be increasing its monitoring from 30 a month to 50 a month, and that's going to include 75 locations that they will be alternating as they do that monitoring," said Williams.

In the meantime, people still need to take precautions.

"If you live in St. Bernard Parish, it is important that you avoid getting water in your nose," said Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Kathy Kliebert. "However, the water is safe to drink."