St. John officials and residents take precautions after brain-eating amoeba found

Photo provided by staff.

POSTED: Thursday, August 28, 2014 - 5:25pm

UPDATED: Friday, August 29, 2014 - 10:50am

Labor Day weekend is pretty much synonymous with water fun in Louisiana, but for residents in one water district in St. John the Baptist Parish, there are dire warnings about their water.

The Department of Health and Hospitals testing confirmed the presence of a brain-eating amoeba there.

The parish is already flushing the water system with chlorine to kill the amoeba, but until then, the amoeba can still kill you, not by drinking it, or by showering, but by getting water up your nose. So this Labor Day, be careful and think twice before taking a swim.

This holiday weekend people in St. John the Baptist Parish are taking extra precautions.

"It's very rare to attract a problem from the amoeba," said the President of St. John Parish Natalie Robottom. "We're discouraging the slip-and-slides. You know, it's hot. We're concerned for people who might be in lakes and ponds and skiing. It's not just present in our potable water."

The brain-eating amoeba was found in St. John's Water District 1. This affects the more than 12,000 people in the Garyville, Reserve, and parts of LaPlace.

"Based on those results, yesterday, the Department of Health and Hospitals received notification that one of those points tested positive for the amoeba," Robottom explained.

The amoeba started thriving because the chlorine level in the water system wasn't high enough. However, the parish made sure to alert everyone, there's a problem.

"I found out about it on a phone call by the Saint John Parish call service. I also got an email finding out about this. I also found out about it on social media," said resident Peter Forest.

Forest said he is getting ready for some fun with family this holiday weekend, but now, he said, he has to worry about his health.

"The timing is pretty bad considering this is a major holiday weekend, and of course, people need water for every day use," Forest said. "It's something you have to deal with. I'm very concerned about it, and the only thing you're going to have to do is take heed."

Robottom said, as a parish, officials are doing what they can to treat the water as quickly as they can.

"Instead of injecting ammonia and chlorine into our water treatment system. The ammonia was removed, and we're sending free chlorine through the system. That will take place for 60 days," Robottom explained.

Until the chlorine cleans the water, everyone needs to be careful. Don't put your head under water for any reason. Also, don't allow children to play with hoses or sprinklers without supervision. When you're filling up your pool, don't do it with just a hose and make sure the water is filtered.

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