Update, 9 a.m. Thursday

On Thursday morning, water service was fully restored to the more than 3,000 Ascension Parish customers who had their water cut off in Donaldsonville early Wednesday. 

However, water pressure will remain low until the water towers are completely replenished, Ascension Parish spokesman Martin McConnell said. 

A boil water advisory remains in effect until further notice.

Update: 4 p.m.:

DONALDSONVILLE — Eighty percent of the more than 3,000 Ascension Parish customers who had their water cut off in Donaldsonville early Wednesday had service partially restored this afternoon but they remained under a boil water advisory, parish officials said.

Parish President Kenny Matassa said that "partial service" was restored by 2 p.m. Wednesday to the vast majority of the customer base, including Prevost Memorial Hospital, Chateau D'Ville Rehab and Retirement Center and Fresenius Dialysis Center.

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Parish government officials said they shut off water service to the west Ascension city 5 a.m. Wednesday due to low pressure caused by line breaks and customers leaving their faucets running in an attempt to keep them from freezing in frigid temperatures.

The combination led to "rapid and severe water depletion in the system storage tanks. Water was being used faster than it was being made," parish officials said in a statement.

But Matassa added managers of the Parish Utilities of Ascension system planned to shut water off again at 10 p.m. Wednesday to allow the system to catch up to the heavy demand. He urged residents to conserve water to help in the effort to catch up or warned the system could be shut down sooner than 10 p.m.

"Our employees have been diligently working nonstop to restore water service to Donaldsonville," Matassa said in the statement.

Parish officials added several hundred customers on the parish-owned Ascension Consolidated Utilities District No. 1 on the outskirts of Donaldsonville did not lose water service.

A portion of that rural parish-owned system in Lemannville and along some commercial areas on La. 70 is supplied by the Parish Utilities of Ascension water plant in Donaldsonville, but Kyle Gautreau, parish government spokesman, said the ACUD system did not lose water because a water tank on La. 70 had enough water to withstand the shut down.   

Matassa added that the parish will have a water tanker at the parish Department of Public Works building, 725 Church St., Donaldsonville, to provide free drinking water until 8 p.m. Wednesday. Resident must bring their own containers.

Matassa said the parish is asking residents to check on their neighbors' homes for leaks, especially if the owners are away.

"We will send emergency crews to turn the water off," he said.

The boil advisory remains in effect until further notice.  

DONALDSONVILLE — Ascension Parish government officials said they hoped to restore water to a hospital and nursing home in Donaldsonville by midday or later Wednesday afternoon after they made the decision around 5 a.m. to shut down the parish water system.

Prevost Memorial Hospital and Chateau D'Ville Rehab and Retirement Center have been without water along with the Parish Utilities of Ascension system's more than 3,000 customers, who are primarily in the city limits of Donaldsonville.

Parish government officials said they shut off water service to the west Ascension city due to low pressure caused by line breaks and customers leaving their faucets running in an attempt to keep them from freezing in frigid temperatures.

The combination led to "rapid and severe water depletion in the system storage tanks. Water was being used faster than it was being made," parish officials said in a statement.

The parish system, which was formerly the private utility known as Peoples Water until it was purchased last year by the parish, will shut down the water system again at 10 p.m. Wednesday to replenish supplies, parish officials said.

Full water service is expected to return to all customers by 4 a.m. Thursday, parish officials said.

In the meantime bottled water has been and continues to be provided to the hospital and nursing home by Ascension Parish Homeland Security officials, the parish said Wednesday morning.

Vince Cataldo, administrator of Prevost Memorial, said the 25-bed hospital has continued to operate normally in spite of the lost pressure through a combination of bottled water and tricking water from hospital faucets.

He said the hospital has large distribution pipes inside it that have allowed a small amount of water still to come out of faucets Wednesday. The hospital also has an emergency supply of water.

Cataldo said the hospital no longer has a surgery department but has an emergency room that is continuing to see patients.   

"We're in good shape," he said.

He said the hospital plans to fill large drums with water once pressure is restored later today for backup storage.

Casey Kennedy, administrator of Chateau D'Ville, said the 141-bed facility has a backup supply of water and, along with the bottled water supplied by the parish, is fine.

"We're all fine. We have no issue at his time," Kennedy said.

The parish system also supplies CF Industries plant, the largest fertilizer complex in North America, but Martin McConnell, parish government spokesman, said the plant is continuing to be served by a parish-operated water tower. 

All Parish Utilities customers are urged to turn off all faucets in their homes and businesses.

Parish Utilities customers will remain under a boil advisory until further notice, but those being served in unincorporated West Ascension by Ascension Consolidated Utilities District No. 1 are not affected.

The cold weather has caused problems with the supply of clean drinking water throughout the state, said Amanda Loughlin, chief engineer for the state Health Department.

She said there have been 20 to 30 boil advisories issued in the past 48 hours, which is about three times the normal number. Those advisories have been distributed among small and large communities and in areas ranging from Lafayette to St. Tammany, she said.

Most of the weather-related boil advisories are due to low pressure, caused either by broken pipes or people running water in their homes to prevent ruptures, she said. When water pressure drops, it increases the chance bacteria can enter the pipes.

"You issue an advisory in case there may be bacteria in the water that is harmful," Loughlin said.

Before an advisory can be lifted, the system must bring water pressure back to normal, add in the chlorine-based disinfectant and submit tests to the Health Department, she said.

Aside from freezing weather, floods and other natural disasters can lead to a similar uptick in boil advisories, she said, with the cause often being pumps that lose power and lack sufficient generators.

Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter, @NewsieDave.