BATON ROUGE, La. -- The Department of Health and Hospitals announced on Monday that around 95% 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, as well as increase their number of sampling sites by 25%. Most drinking water systems in Louisiana were required to meet this new higher standard by February 1, 2014.
DHH 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 amoeba. 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."
Senate Bill 75 by Senator J. P. Morrell directs DHH 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 amoeba, 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 DHH's emergency rule speaks not only to how seriously our water systems take protecting their customers' safety and well being, 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 by clicking here.
DHH 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 amoeba. 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 DHH by March 1, 2014.
Download a copy of the rule here.