St. Bernard residents demand answers on brain-eating amoeba at meeting

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wwltv.com

Posted on September 23, 2013 at 10:03 PM

Updated Tuesday, Sep 24 at 12:53 PM

Tania Dall / Eyewitness News
Email: tdall@wwltv.com | Twitter: @taniadall

CHALMETTE, La. -- The questions came fast and furious in St. Bernard Parish on Monday night about a brain-eating amoeba contaminating the parish's water supply.

Concerned residents met with state and federal officials to hear about what's being done in light of a 4-year-old's boys death from the parasite.

"Come on, you gotta wrap your legs around like a fireman," said Nancy Jaeger while playing with her grandson at a Chalmette Park.

Jaeger's grandson, Jayden, is nearly the same age as Drake Smith Jr. The 4-year-old from Mississippi recently died from a brain-eating amoeba found in St. Bernard Parish's water supply.

His family and health officials confirm he likely got the parasite from a slip 'n' slide.

"I have my grandson living with me and he's only 3. How do you tell a 3-year-old not to get water in their nose?" asked Jaeger, who lives in Poydras and has been concerned about the tainted water supply.

On Monday night at the urging of state Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, a public meeting was held where residents could launch questions at state and federal officials about the rare, deadly amoeba in their water supply.

"I would like to know why the residents in the area where it was found weren't informed right when it was tested positive," asked Violet resident Kathleen Brown.

"We trust what our officials say. Now I'm not trusting anymore," said Arabi resident Crystall Wells.

Health officials say the parish continues to flush its water system with a "chlorine burn" to kill off the amoeba. Some residents questioned why testing showed some parts of the parish had no chlorine levels in the water supply at all.

"Was that a money saving idea to stop chlorinating the water?" asked one speaker from Poydras who walked up to the podium.

Residents were told by state and federal officials about a three-point plan that St. Bernard Parish is adopting to get its water system back on track: It will continue to inject higher chlorine levels than normal into the water system to help kill all amoebas; it will increase chlorine levels in some water storage tanks; and up the number of monthly water monitoring plus testing sites parish-wide.

Those are steps in the right direction that one grandmother says are too little, too late for those families who've lost loved ones.

"We should have known about it a long time ago. They shouldn't have kept it hidden from us you know. Cause maybe we could have prevented it, you know," said Jaeger.

St. Bernard Parish residents are still being urged to avoid getting water up their nose. Health officials also say the water is safe to drink despite the increased levels of chlorine.

 

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