The state Department of Health and Hospitals announced Saturday it has lifted the water advisory on Donaldsonville after test results revealed the water is safe to drink.
DHH staff took five samples from separate parts of the Peoples Water Service Co. system, and each indicated the community’s water is no longer dangerous to consume, according to a DHH news release Saturday.
Officials with DHH called parish officials earlier in the morning, and the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office tweeted the news about 11:30 a.m. Saturday.
Mayor Leroy Sullivan said Jimmy Guidry, the state health officer, called him shortly before 11 a.m. Saturday to say the advisory had been lifted and “the water was good and safe to drink.”
DHH said it will continue to monitor Donaldsonville’s water supply, though.
State health officials had warned the city’s residents not to drink water from Peoples Water Service Co. since Wednesday, after the state ordered the private utility to stop its disinfection methods over concerns that too much of the disinfectant chlorine dioxide might be entering the water supply.
That order followed an advisory Tuesday night that young children and pregnant women shouldn’t drink water or eat food cooked with the water because of possibly high chlorine dioxide levels, which could affect the underdeveloped nervous systems of young children and fetuses.
A Tulane University toxicologist told The Advocate on Thursday that even the high chlorine dioxide levels uncovered by DHH wouldn’t pose long-term health risks to adults and probably not to young children or fetuses either. The toxicologist said it would have taken levels hundreds of times greater than what was uncovered to pose a risk to a young child’s or fetus’s nervous system.
However, DHH still had to wait for tests to show Peoples Water’s new disinfection method, which was started Thursday, had taken effect and killed organisms harmful to all ages. Those organisms could have arisen in the water system after Peoples Water was ordered to stop using chlorine dioxide earlier in the week.
State health officials discovered Monday during a routine inspection that the company’s own internal tests going back to September showed water at Peoples Water’s treatment plant contained concentrations of chlorine dioxide as much as 6.5 times greater than federal drinking water standards.
In separate monthly reports during that time, Peoples Water had told state regulators that the water at the plant was within federal guidelines.
DHH is investigating the reporting discrepancies.
Peoples Water officials have acknowledged reporting errors but claim their testing equipment gave erroneous results and that the public’s health was never actually threatened.
Each of the internal findings of high chlorine dioxide levels — erroneous or not — should have been reported to DHH, department officials have said. And they should have prompted additional water tests in Peoples Water’s distribution system to see if public health was actually threatened.
Peoples Water officials said they conducted the extra tests, but DHH officials have said they have not received them.
The discovery of high levels of chlorine dioxide in the distribution network, which reaches people’s businesses and homes, would have been the type of violation requiring the company to notify the public within 24 hours, DHH officials said.
Since the problems were uncovered, DHH has tested water in the Peoples Water system and found it did not have levels of chlorine dioxide or its harmful byproduct, chlorite, that were above federal limits.
But those tests were taken Wednesday after DHH had ordered the company to stop using chlorine dioxide in the water and to switch to another method of disinfection.