LAPLACE — Water remediation efforts persist in St. John the Baptist Parish, as a free-chlorine burn to St. John Water District 1 is projected to end this month and a training for the parish’s Utilities Department was recently held.
The Department of Health and Hospitals issued an Emergency Order requiring St. John Water District 1 to perform a 60-day free-chlorine burn to kill the ameba within the water system after the Aug. 27 announcement that water taken in a sample two weeks earlier from the district tested positive for Naegleria fowleri ameba.
The impacted water system serves six parish schools and more than 12,500 people in Reserve, Garyville, Mt. Airy and a small portion of LaPlace.
Parish President Natalie Robottom said two water samples are taken daily in the affected water district, one at the point of entry at the water plant and one at the maximum resident time located at the end of the distribution line.
In addition, “the Utilities Department will test 70 sites identified by DHH once per week to verify adequate levels of chlorine are in the system,” Robottom said of Water District 1.
The 70 sample sites are specific to DHH’s Emergency Order and include fire hydrants, water faucets, hose bibs and sampling stations.
At the end of the 60-day burn, DHH will sample the system again for presence of the ameba. In previous cases in Louisiana, a burn has been effective in controlling the ameba, officials said.
Parish Public Information Officer Baileigh Rebowe said the chlorine burn — which requires a 1.0 mg/l chlorine residual be maintained throughout the system for 60 days — is estimated to be complete Nov. 17.
As of Sunday, chlorine levels were 1.47 parts per million at the point of entry site and 3.7 parts per million at the maximum resident site, Rebowe said.
The statewide emergency rule requires .5 parts per million, but the DHH administrative order mandates St. John Parish maintain 1.0 parts per million throughout the system during the 60 days of testing.
Rebowe said water towers in Reserve and Garyville have been remediated and post-remediation samples were approved by DHH. She said remediation efforts included draining, cleaning and refilling the towers and sending samples of the water to DHH for approval.
The parish has also added nine flushers — machines attached to the end of a distribution system that help move water and chlorine through the line — in Water District 1, bringing the total to 22 flushers throughout the parish. Rebowe said the parish intends to keep the flushers in operation after the burn is complete.
Rebowe added in addition to the Emergency Order, the parish is continuing to sample all parish water districts as required by DHH, and hydrant testing and flushing is ongoing in all districts.
Robottom said her goal of providing continued Utilities Department management training was realized in October when Dinah Millet, a certified environmental trainer with Thornton, Musso & Bellemin who has 24 years of experience in the water and wastewater industry, addressed parish administrative staff and finance department employees, utilities department management and Utility Board members during a four-and-a half-hour training course.
“Managing a parish utility system is a huge responsibility and requires ongoing training for all parties involved,” Robottom said. “Although members of the utilities department attended trainings previously, it was important that everyone with a role hear the same message at the same time. This was the first time the training was attended by such a range of attendees responsible for running the system.”
The course focused on the utilities department’s management practices involving finances, technical capacity, accountability, liability, insurance, ethics, policy development and long-term planning.
Utilities Board member Glenn Brady said the training “emphasized the need for everyone involved to be committed, to take their responsibilities seriously and to work as a team to provide safe drinking water to the residents of our parish.”
Utilities Manager Troy Miles said Millet was knowledgeable and insightful.
“There was not a lapse in attention from anyone in attendance, and we all thoroughly enjoyed our training session,” he said.
Attendees received a certificate of completion from the state, as well as continuing education credits that can be applied toward certification requirements.