News Feature | May 27, 2014

Haunted By Brain-Eating Amoeba, Louisiana Considers Higher Water Standards

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

petridishreg

The Louisiana legislature is considering measures aimed at holding water utilities to higher standards and protecting residents from tainted tap water. 

The proposals include "Senate Bill 421, authored by state Sen. Page Cortez, R-Lafayette, and SB 425, co-authored by Cortez and state Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks," according to a commentary in the Daily World

One water provider, in particular, prompted lawmakers to write these bills. 

Total Environmental Solutions (TESI) has been serving up water that is far below reasonable standards, according to the piece. The company's customers have grown "accustomed to brown or orange water that ruins water heaters, discolors dishwashers and bathroom fixtures and stains clothes," the commentary said. 

“It’s geared 100 percent to TESI,” state Sen. Mills told the Advertiser

These conditions are all the more unsettling because TESI serves areas that have been on alert for the brain-eating amoeba. The amoeba was found “earlier this year in the water supplies in St. Bernard and DeSoto parishes," the Daily World commentary said. 

Legislators decided to write bills on this issue because other solutions failed. 

"Legislation is the last resort for these lawmakers, who have been working with TESI officials and representatives of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, the agency in charge of drinking water quality, without satisfactory results," the commentary said. 

Even though TESI is delivering brown tap water, the product still meets official state standards. 

"Lafayette Parish homeowners who have dealt for years with brown tap water that stains appliances but meets state drinking-water standards could see some relief with two bills filed with the state legislature," the Advertiser reported.

The appearance of the water is not the only concern. "Sometimes the problem goes beyond aesthetics. In January and February, Louisiana residents in 10 subdivisions served by TESI, including four in Lafayette Parish — Royalton Park, Young Acres, Beau Parterre and Lakeview Estates — were advised to boil their water, according to service alerts TESI posted online. Boil orders are issued when drinking water may be contaminated with bacteria and viruses," the report said. 

What would the proposed legislation do?

Senate Bill 425 “would require private water or sewer systems in areas such as Scott, Youngsville and Broussard to have iron and manganese control. Iron and manganese do not pose a health risk. However, the elements are a nuisance because they stain laundry and lower water pressure," the New Orleans Advocate reported

This bill has cleared some initial hurdles. "The Local and Municipal Affairs Committee unanimously endorsed [it], after residents of Country Village and Shenandoah subdivisions showed samples of discolored water and stained clothing and photos of stained dishwashers," the Shreveport Times reported

“It’s like living in a third world country,” Committee Chair Sen. Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb said in the report. “Nobody should have to live with that.”

Senate 421 would instruct state regulators to "set standards limiting certain contaminants in water from community water systems," according to a summary of the bill. 

For more on policy and politics, check out Water Online's Regulations and Legislation Solution Center

Image credit: "Biology 253 Lab," lofaesofa © 2006, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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