As West Feliciana Parish adds more liquid bleach to its water system at the recommendation of state health officials, residents are complaining about the color and smell of the water that now flows from their taps.
When people turn on their faucets, sometimes the water pours out brown and tinged with a chlorine smell, said West Feliciana Parish President Kenny Havard.
“Can you imagine washing your whites and all of a sudden you have brown water?" Havard said. "We have everything from, ‘I can smell chlorine in the water,’ to ‘My water’s brown.’ ”
West Feliciana is one of a few parishes that manually injects liquid bleach into the water system, Havard said in a recent news release about the problems.
He said the extent of water discoloration and strong smell of chlorine depends in part on how close homes are to injection sites. He said it became a problem after the state Department of Health and Hospitals revised their requirements around June to add more bleach than was called for in previous water treatment standards.
Havard speculated DHH might have raised the liquid bleach levels because of the presence of Naegleria fowleri, commonly known as brain-eating amoeba, in other parts of the state. But he said he doesn't know for sure that it's the reason for doing it.
UPDATE: Boil advisory canceled as of Thursday, Oct. 24.
The amoeba may infect people by entering the nose, but will not harm people who drink the water, according to the DHH website.
The agency reported the presence of brain-eating amoeba in multiple parish water systems as recently as October 2018. However, Havard said the parish’s water supply has never tested positive for this amoeba.
The problem, according to Havard, has less to do with safety and more to do with citizen expectations that their water be colorless and odorless.
Havard said scale that has built up in the walls of the parish's water pipes has begun to break away now that more liquid bleach has been added, causing the water to turn brown and reek of chlorine in certain areas.
While Havard said the water is perfectly safe, he said brown water is “unacceptable in this day and time.”
“It’s not a good thing,” Havard said. “No one wants to taste it, no one wants to smell it.”
He said he hopes to implement a "chloramine system" to correct the problem, which will release chlorine gas instead of liquid bleach into the water, halting oxidation and rectifying the problem with water color quality.
Havard said he hopes the system will be in place by the end of January.