HOUMA, La. - A boil-water advisory was lifted Saturday evening in much of west Houma, all of Dularge and most of Dulac but remains for the rest of Terrebonne Parish as workers scramble to bring the system back in line with state standards.
'We're working as fast as we can to get things back to normal,' said Mike Sobert, general manager of the Terrebonne Waterworks District.
Residents of these areas are now free to drink their tap water without boiling it:
- The area south of North Hollywood Road, to the west of Morrison Avenue, north of Bayou Terrebonne and east of the Intracoastal Waterway.
- The area south of Bayou Terrebonne, west of St. Charles Street and Southdown Mandalay Road, north of Bayou Black and east of the Intracoastal Waterway, except for Tunnel Boulevard from Levron Street headed west.
- The area south of Bayou Black, east of 3303 La. 182 and north and west of the Intracoastal.
- The entire Bayou Dularge area to the southern end of La. 315.
- The Grand Caillou-Dulac area east of Dean Court, south of Industrial Boulevard and Grand Caillou Road and north of the Dulac water tank.
All other areas, including all of east Houma with the exception of the small portions listed above, remain under the boil-water advisory.
Sobert said the problem started Tuesday night, when Hurricane Isaac's winds whipped up silt in the Bayou Lafourche reservoir from which the parish's Schriever water plant draws water to process.
That silt clogged the plant's filters, causing the 'turbidity,' or number of floating particles in the water, to increase beyond state standards.
'The state gets nervous because those particles could end up being organic, which could cause sickness,' Sobert said. 'The risk is very, very minimal, but the standards are meant to have an abundance of caution.'
Sobert said the plant never lagged in chlorinating water or lost water pressure, either of which would have caused more serious concerns.
'An advisory means there's the possibility that something may have contaminated the system,' Sobert said. 'It's a lot less than an order, which means something definitely entered the system.'
Sobert said those who showered in or drank water during the advisory likely wouldn't get sick, though he wouldn't advise ignoring it.
Sobert said the district has activated its smaller Houma plant, which is drawing water from Bayou Black instead of the preferred Intracoastal Waterway, which has become too salty from Gulf tides.
The Houma plant is now covering parts of Houma, Dulac and Dularge. The Schriever plant is supplying the rest of Terrebonne Parish.
Sobert said the district has focused on getting the Houma system cleared first because that area contains the parish's two hospitals. He said he hopes to have the Schriever plant system cleared soon but didn't have an exact timeline.
Removing the advisory is a lengthy process because the district must provide the state with samples proving the water has acceptably few particles. The test for that process takes 18 hours minimum, often longer.
'Until we have enough samples test clean to prove to the state that we're OK, we have to keep the advisory up. It's not our decision,' Sobert said.
The advisory has caused headaches for some local residents.
'I know I shouldn't be complaining since we've had our power back since Wednesday morning, but boiling water sure can be annoying,' Tiffany Lundin wrote on Facebook. 'I still shower and and wash my face with the tap water. Just have to wait to wash dishes and will have to throw out the ice in my freezer.'
Others say they're taking it in stride.
'No problem. Most everybody in south Louisiana has a big crawfish boiling pot and propane gas,' wrote Barry Landry. 'Just break it out, boil your water, keep it covered and dip in when needed.'
Staff Writer Matthew Albright can be reached at 448-7635 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.