Go ahead and pour yourself a glass of water from the faucet.
At 5 p.m. Saturday, the Sewerage & Water Board canceled the precautionary boil-water advisory that had been in place for residents of the east bank of Orleans Parish for 31 hours.
The order was issued at 10 a.m. Friday after the pressure in the city’s water system briefly dropped earlier that morning to what’s considered potentially unsafe levels. But it took city and S&WB officials nearly seven hours to issue the advisory after the initial problem occurred at the agency’s Carrollton water treatment plant.
After consulting Saturday with the state Department of Health and Hospitals, S&WB officials canceled the advisory after tests showed the water throughout the east bank was safe to drink. Residents were advised, though, to flush their pipes by running water through their system.
From the start, city and S&WB officials had described the advisory as a precautionary one, noting that the drop in water pressure was relatively brief and that the system is highly chlorinated to ward off contamination. However, they still urged residents to boil tap water for a full minute before using it for drinking, bathing, brushing teeth or preparing food.
As the day wore on Saturday and the boil advisory remained in place while officials remained tight-lipped, some residents vented their unhappiness on social media and elsewhere.
This was only the latest in a string of pressure drops that have plagued the city’s water supply in recent years, forcing boil-water orders and raising frequent criticism not only of the city’s aging water infrastructure but also of the lengthy stretches that sometimes have passed before public warnings were issued.
Pressure remained above 20 pounds per square inch Friday morning at the Carrollton water purification plant, above the level that triggers a boil-water advisory. But seven of the 16 east bank pumping stations reported that their pressure had dropped below the critical threshold of 15 psi overnight, though the data were not gathered until 8 a.m. Friday.
Those stations were at the Lakefront, Gentilly, the Almonaster-Michoud Industrial District, New Orleans East, the 9th Ward, Treme and the Central Business District.
Water in the system’s pipes typically stays at about 68 psi. But when the pressure falls below 15 psi, water from surrounding soil can seep into the system, possibly carrying with it bacteria that can cause diarrhea or other illnesses.
It was unclear why the pump stations’ recordings were not read until five hours after the initial incident.
Less than two months ago, the agency was criticized for holding off a day before issuing an advisory for English Turn and Lower Coast Algiers following a water main break that disrupted pressure and caused it to fall below the critical threshold. Officials lifted that advisory two days after the notice was issued.