News Feature | March 5, 2014

Water Treatment Back To Normal After Brain-Eating Amoeba Attack

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


A Louisiana community went on the defensive against brain-eating amoebae last year, but water treatment has now returned to normal.

"After about five months of pumping elevated free chlorine into the St. Bernard Parish water system to rid it of a deadly brain-eating amoeba that killed a 4-year-old boy, the parish water and sewer division has switched back to its previous form of disinfectant, chloramine," the Times-Picayune recently reported

For ratepayers, the return to normal treatment "will ease the strong chlorine smell and flavor in the parish's water." Federal testing found that the system does not contain the amoeba, according to the report.

The return to normalcy is also a health precaution. "While amplified levels of pure chlorine are better at fighting the rare Naegleria fowleri amoeba that was found in the water system last September, its long-term use can lead to higher concentrations of disinfection byproducts, some of which are a health concern," the report said.

The parish has treated its water with chloramine since 1986, the report said. "It has been used as a drinking water disinfectant in the United States since the 1930s, according the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency."

In a previous article, the Times-Picayune reported that earlier this year, the parish distinguished itself by becoming "the first municipality in the United States to have its treated water system test positive for a rare brain-eating amoeba."

Back in September, a previous Times-Picayune article reported that "a 4-year-old child visiting a St. Bernard Parish home died from primary amebic meningoencephalitis, a brain infection that leads to the destruction of brain tissue."

Is the brain-eating amoeba linked to climate change?

"As freshwater lakes get hotter in the summer, that leads to more amoebae in the water and increased human risk," Sonia Altizer, an associate professor of ecology at the University of Georgia, said in E&E News.

Image credit: "CHLORINE," © 2007 rkimpeljr, used under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license:

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