The state health department’s medical director said Tuesday that he is not convinced that a potentially deadly amoeba that turned up in St. Bernard Parish’s water system last month was the result of faulty equipment, as one parish leader has speculated. Dr. Jimmy Guidry said further testing is necessary.
Parish President David Peralta said last week that the water testing equipment on Angela Street in Arabi — where the amoeba was detected — was broken. He said a crack in the pipe where water flows to be tested allowed standing water to accumulate nearby. That likely was where the amoeba entered the water through the cracked line, he said.
Peralta noted that chlorine levels at the site of the positive sample met the state’s required level of disinfectant.
But Guidry told a crowd of a few dozen at a community meeting Tuesday evening at Nunez Community College that he had consulted with experts from across the country on whether it was possible for the amoeba to have seeped in from near the testing site.
He said that if the water pressure was high enough that the water flowed uninterrupted from the spigot at the testing site, “it’s highly unlikely” that the amoeba seeped in from the cracked line.
“That’s why I’m waiting on these other results,” he said, referencing additional water tests that were taken last week and are a few weeks from being finished. “I can’t answer the question, but they felt that it has to be in the water because we took it out of the spigot.”
Guidry added that state health officials “feel like we took it (the water sample) out of the main water supply” but noted that they aren’t positive.
The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals informed parish officials last week that the Naegleria fowleri amoeba was found at a water sampling station at 948 Angela St. in June, nearly two years after a young Mississippi boy died from contracting the amoeba at a home in Violet.
The state tested the water on June 24 as part of a new surveillance system implemented in the wake of the 2013 incident.
As a precaution, the parish is boosting chlorine levels in the water system for 60 days — a formula that officials say has been successful at eliminating the amoeba elsewhere.
When they sampled the water at seven St. Bernard sites in June, state officials said, two tested positive for the amoeba. One positive test was taken at the parish’s water treatment plant before the water was treated. The second positive test was taken at the home on Angela Street.
Five other sites tested negative for the amoeba, though one site did not meet the required level of disinfectant.
Guidry stressed that a person can contract the amoeba only if it enters the body through the nose and is pushed into the brain.
Follow Richard Thompson on Twitter, @rthompsonMSY.