Boil-water advisory in New Orleans lifted; reason for loss of power at water plant disputed _lowres

Advocate photo by SOPHIA GERMER -- Amy Saenz is handed bottled water by Tucker Franz at the Gazebo Cafe during the boil-water advisory in New Orleans, Thursday September 24, 2015.

A boil-water advisory that covered the entire east bank of Orleans Parish was lifted early Friday morning after tests showed the city’s water system was not contaminated by a drop in pressure late Wednesday evening.

The advisory, which lasted about 32 hours, was issued when a power outage at the Sewerage & Water Board’s Carrollton water treatment plant led to a drop in pressure throughout the system, S&WB officials said.

Such drops can allow harmful bacteria to seep into the pipes, but tests of 90 samples from around the city showed no problems, officials said Friday.

It was the second time in less than three months that power problems have taken pumps temporarily offline at the water plant, leading to boil-water advisories. It sparked calls from City Council President Jason Williams for a short-term fix to ensure the area’s drinking water remains safe and available.

The exact cause of Wednesday’s outage remains in dispute.

S&WB officials said the pumps that keep the water system pressurized lost power provided by Entergy New Orleans, with Executive Director Cedric Grant saying the problem did not come from within the plant.

But Entergy officials said Thursday that while there was an outage in the Carrollton area Wednesday night after metallic balloons hit power lines, there is no indication that the lines into the water plant were affected.

They doubled down on that position Friday.

“The data confirms that the feeders serving the S&WB (plant) were operating normally and delivering power within industry standards. Even with the simultaneous event caused by metallic balloons on separate feeders in the area, the two feeders serving the S&WB continued to deliver power to the plant, as well as to other customers fed by those lines,” Entergy spokeswoman Charlotte Cavell said in an emailed statement Friday.

Entergy has been urging the S&WB for four years to install equipment that would allow it to “ride through” short fluctuations in power, similar to what many office buildings have, Cavell said.

“We urge the S&WB to take immediate steps to address this issue and will continue to work with them and any third parties they choose to hire to make this happen,” she said.