St. Bernard Parish is bringing in outside scientists to test their water system to make sure it's safe for residents.
Parish President David Peralta said Tuesday he is contracting with former Tulane School of Public Health professor Dr. A.J. England and the Jacobs Consulting Group to study the safety of the water system.
It comes after a young boy died from a brain-eating amoeba infection after going on a slip-n-slide there. The boy’s death is the talk of the parish.
Bobbie Roussell operates a roadside fruit stand in St. Bernard and said Tuesday she was still concerned, despite reassurance from health officials.
“Was real upset because of me having grandchildren that love to play in the water and all,” said Roussell, giving voice to a common concern in St Bernard.
Again, parish leaders insist the water is safe to drink and that a chlorine flush of the system should give them extra assurance that the problem is being dealt with.
“It is absolutely safe to drink. The water has always been safe to drink. There has never been a situation where I felt, nor have any of the national experts or the state experts who said that it couldn't have been,” said Peralta.
State health inspectors said Friday that they found lower levels of chlorine in the water. The chemical kills the amoeba.
But Peralta is quick to point out, “Chlorine levels have never dipped below the standard minimum.”
The Department of Health and Hospitals confirmed that to Eyewitness News late Tuesday.
But now with the parish flushing the water system to ensure the amoeba are killed, some residents are now concerned about the chlorine, because they say water out of the tap now smells like a swimming pool.
“Some people have asked, you know, is that safe? It's a low level of chlorine and the consumption is perfectly safe,” Peralta said.
Those reassurances from parish leaders aren't enough for a citizen group petitioning the parish for more transparency about post-Katrina problems with the water system.
“So, them saying, trust us, it's safe, not good enough? Not good enough. With over 200 people in one day disagreeing, not good enough,” said Ryan Johnston, one of the co-founders of both a paper and online petition drive.
It's the second time someone has died from the amoeba in St Bernard. In 2011, a college student got it after using tap water in a Neti pot to rinse their sinuses.
The parish insists the amoeba was in the home, not the water supply.
The state Department of Health and Hospitals got back to us about whether St Bernard's water system did meet clean water act standards at the times of the amoeba deaths.
They said the chlorine levels have been in compliance. but that there are no federal guidelines for testing or treatment of the amoebas.