The Department of Health on Monday announced that around 95 percent of the state's drinking water systems have complied with an emergency rule issued last year requiring increased disinfectant levels in drinking water and increased monitoring of water quality.
The emergency rule was issued in November 2013 and required that water systems in the state maintain a higher residual disinfectant level and increase their number of sampling sites by 25 percent. Most drinking water systems in Louisiana were required to meet this new higher standard by February 1, 2014.
The rule was written following discussions with scientists, federal officials, industry leaders and water system operators. The Emergency Rule is based on scientific data and recommendations from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) relative to the control of the Naegleria fowleri ameba that was discovered in two public water systems in the state.
LDH Secretary Kathy Kliebert said, "We are excited that so many systems were able to bring their water up to the new standard, which is known to control the Naegleria fowleri ameba. We will continue to work with the 73 systems that did not yet comply to ensure that they do. It is important for users in these systems to understand that their water remains safe to drink, even if the system did not comply with the new rule yet. The raised chlorination standards are higher than the national standards for drinking water and were put in place to ensure that the water is safe for all uses."
Prior to the November 2013 Emergency Rule, Louisiana's regulations, which were implemented in 1995 in accordance with federal guidance, stipulated that drinking water systems were required to have a "trace" or "detectable" level of chlorine residual at all points of their system at all times.
Senate Bill 75 by Senator J. P. Morrell directs LDH to promulgate a permanent rule with a minimum disinfectant level of more than a "trace" of free or total chlorine in the water. SB 75 is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Health and Welfare committee on Tuesday.
Senator Morrell said, "After the tragic loss of three people to the very rare Naegleria fowleri ameba, we must take action to ensure that our water is disinfected in a way that controls this ameba, which is what my bill would do. The fact that so many water systems have already complied with LDH's emergency rule speaks not only to how seriously our water systems take protecting their customers' safety and wellbeing, but also to how achievable this higher standard of chlorination is."
In total, only 73 systems out of the state's 1,369 public drinking water systems are not in compliance with the November 2013 emergency rule, which is around 5 percent of all drinking water systems in Louisiana. The Department issued Notice of Violation letters to the 73 systems today. A list of the systems not in compliance can be found at dhh.louisiana.gov/WaterFacts or by clicking here.
LDH will work with these systems that are not yet in compliance with the emergency rule to ensure that they are able to comply and to try to avoid future enforcement action. Not complying with the Emergency Rule does not mean that the water is unsafe for users to drink.
Under the November 2013 rule, drinking water systems must have a minimum disinfectant residual level of 0.5 mg/l throughout all of their distribution lines. This 0.5 mg/l level is known to control the Naegleria fowleri ameba. The rule also requires that water systems develop and submit a revised monitoring plan for bacteriological and chlorine residual monitoring by January 1, 2014. If a system disinfects using chloramines, which is chlorine with an ammonia addition, as opposed to free chlorine, it must submit a nitrification control plan to LDH by March 1, 2014.
Download a copy of the rule here.
FOR QUESTIONS/ UPDATES
In response to the positive test results for Naegleria fowleri in some water systems in St. Bernard and DeSoto parish several weeks ago, LDH launched www.dhh.louisiana.gov/WaterFacts to provide the public with accurate information about the ameba. LDH is also accepting questions from the public for using a form on this Website or via e-mail to DHHInfo@la.gov.
For information from the CDC about Naegleria fowleri, visit this site: http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/naegleria/prevention.html