NEW ORLEANS -- Do you know what's in the glass of tap water that quenches your thirst on a hot New Orleans afternoon?
According to a detailed, EPA-mandated annual report, published in a full page ad in a local newspaper, along with the H2O, you could also drinking traces of coliform bacteria, copper, arsenic, uranium and other contaminants.
But Orleans Parish Sewerage & Water Board General Superintendent Joe Becker said don't let that scare you. All of the contaminants are far below the highest levels allowed by federal guidelines.
"The customer can be very confident that we are providing a quality product that is complying with all of the guidelines for EPA to provide safe drinking water," said Becker.
Last year, a rare brain-eating amoeba in the St. Bernard Parish water supply killed a 4-year-old boy.
Becker said chlorine residual in New Orleans tap water helps protect against amoebas.
"Having chlorine in the water is very important in terms of being able to fight off the effects of allowing any kind of those contaminants to grow in the distribution system," said Becker. "Chlorine combats the ability for amoebas or any kind of bacterial growth to develop inside of the pipe."
The water board recommends you run your tap for at least 30 seconds before drinking the water. That minimizes the chances of exposure to lead and other contaminants that may exist in your pipes.
"If you run the water for a period of time, when you can sense that the temperature is changing, then that's an indication that you've gone through the stagnant water that at that location," said Becker.
New Orleans gets its water from the Mississippi River. Water board officials say they are constantly testing the water at the river before it leaves the plant and at 200 locations throughout the city to make sure it's treated and safe to drink.
Enrique J. La Motta, Ph.D., P.E., professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of New Orleans, said the report is consistent with other major metropolitan areas in the country. He also said the report is telling you that the New Orleans tap water meets the EPA requirements.