The Louisiana Department of Health offers advice to Louisiana residents with private drinking water wells and to restaurants that are in areas affected by last week's storm system that caused flooding throughout the state. Also, a fourth death that is attributed to the storm has been confirmed by the Natchitoches Parish Coroner.
Private Drinking Water Wells: Bacterial and Chemical Contamination
If a homeowner's private water well was flooded during or after the storm, the owner should disinfect the well using a chlorine bleach solution following recommended Environmental Protection Agency guidelines. The owner should then flush the well.
Fuel, chemical releases and spills can occur during flood events and enter private wells. Disinfection described above will not provide protection from pesticides, heavy metals and other chemicals. If your water smells like fuel or chemicals, do not drink it until it has been tested by a certified lab. Until you know the water is safe, use bottled water or some other safe supply of water.
If well owners wish to have their water well tested for bacterial or chemical contamination, there are private laboratories that are certified to test drinking water samples and will perform this service for a fee. Owners should wait to submit water samples for testing until they have disinfected and flushed the well. A listing of state-certified drinking water laboratories is available online. For bacterial testing, see here and for chemical testing, see here. For more information on private well water testing, see this LDH publication: Private Water Well Testing in Louisiana.
You can call LDH at 1 (888) 293-7020 for more information or guidance on testing.
Restaurant Food Safety
Modified health inspections are available for restaurants and other retail food establishments in flooded areas of the state. An inspection is required for establishments that have experienced a power outage of four hours or longer or had flood water in their business. The Department of Health advises these businesses to contact the local parish sanitarians for this modified inspection prior to re-opening.
Health department sanitarians can assist in food destruction if necessary and provide documentation that may be useful for insurance purposes. Sanitarians can also offer guidance regarding the safety of a business's remaining food inventory.
Restaurants are advised that LDH sanitarians are ready to assist and will make every attempt to have the modified inspections completed within 24 hours of the request.
Fourth Storm-Related Death Reported
The Natchitoches Parish Coroner has verified a fourth death as being related to the storm and flooding. On March 12 at approximately 8:55 p.m., the body of an older male was recovered near an overflowing dam that is part of Saline Bayou and Black Lake near Clarence, LA. The coroner reports that three individuals in a boat were moving items from a flooded residence. The boat began to take on water and only two of the individuals were able to swim to safety. The victim never surfaced.
The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state residents. To learn more about LDH, visit www.dhh.la.gov. For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow DHH's Twitter account and Facebook.