Baton Rouge – If you lost water pressure at your tap or if the water pressure was extremely low, Jimmy Guidry, MD, State Health Officer, recommends that homeowners disinfect their water by any one of the following methods prior to consumption (including drinking, cooking, brushing teeth or preparing food):
$ Boil water for one full minute in a clean container. The one-minute boil time begins after the water has been brought to a rolling boil. (The flat taste can be eliminated by shaking the water in a bottle or pouring it from one container to another.)
$ If the water is clear, mix 1/8 teaspoon of unscented, liquid chlorine laundry bleach with one gallon of water and let it stand for at least 30 minutes prior to consumption. If the water is cloudy or colored, use 1/4 teaspoon per gallon of water. Be sure to mix thoroughly. If the treated water has too strong a chlorine taste, it can be made tastier by allowing the water to stand exposed to the air for a few hours or by pouring it from one clean container to another several times.
$ If the water is clear, mix five drops of 2 % United States Pharmacopeia (USP) tincture of iodine solution (common household tincture of iodine from the medicine cabinet or first aid package) to each quart of clear water and let it stand for at least 30 minutes prior to consumption. If the water is cloudy or colored, use 10 drops to each quart of water.
Dr. Guidry noted that boiling is the most effective method of disinfection of water, particularly for people who have severely weakened immune systems (infected with HIV/AIDS, cancer and transplant patients taking immunosuppresive drugs, or people born with a weakened immune system) and for infants and elderly who wish to take extra precautions.
People obtaining water from a public water system (which is a system providing water to 15 homes and businesses or more) must continue to disinfect their drinking water by one of the above-listed methods until a public notice is issued by the water system stating the water is safe. This may take as long as two or three weeks before a water system is declared safe.
People who obtain water from their own individual well or their neighbor's well should disinfect the well and distribution system if floodwaters reached and entered the well casing. To disinfect, mix two quarts of liquid chlorine laundry bleach with 10 gallons of water and pour the contents down the well. Replace the well cover and turn on the water taps until there is an odor of chlorine. Once a chlorine odor is detected, immediately turn the tap off. After allowing the chlorinated water to stand in the piping and the well for at least eight hours, open all taps and spigots and flush out the chlorine. Keep flushing until the chlorine odor has disappeared.
If a private water well has become inundated with floodwaters, an Office of Public Health laboratory will analyze a water sample for bacteriological quality for a fee of $75. After disinfecting and flushing the water system thoroughly, contact your parish health unit sanitarian. A complete listing of contact numbers for health units throughout the state can be obtained on the OPH Web site at or by calling 225-342-8093.(Note: Samples will not be accepted if only the power was lost to the pump/motor without the well casing also being inundated.)
Continue to disinfect drinking water by one of the above-listed methods until such time as a parish health unit sanitarian reports that the sample results indicate the water to be safe.
Owners and operators of all public water systems (those systems providing water to 15 homes and businesses or more) whose water pressure went down to 15 pounds per square inch or less are asked to batch chlorinate their system with a 50 milligram per liter (mg/L) slug leaving the plant or treatment site. Additionally, those systems having continuous disinfection capabilities are asked to boost their normal chlorine feed rate (following batch chlorination) so as to maintain a residual of at least two to three milligrams per liter (mg/L) once the system goes back on line. Make arrangements with a parish health unit sanitarian to have water samples collected.
People who have been affected by loss of water service may expect some irregularities with their water while efforts are being made to ensure that the water is safe. It is expected that water may have an unusual chlorine odor as well as possible sediments appearing in the water while these special precautions are taking place. Flushing household taps for a few minutes should fix this problem.
Contact: Karen Irion, Administrator, OPH Safe Drinking Water Program, 225-765-5038.