This evening, Louisiana State Health Officer Jimmy Guidry, MD, notified the Peoples Water System of Donaldsonville, LA that it must immediately change how it treats it drinking water after a routine inspection discovered possible elevated levels of chlorine dioxide in the treatment system. The directive is to make the change from using chlorine dioxide immediately this evening, March 22, 2016.
In addition to directing the system to stop using chlorine dioxide, the Department of Health (DHH) alerts resident NOT to drink the water until this notification is updated later this week. The system serves approximately 10,000 customers.
The directive follows findings of chlorine dioxide in the treatment system at levels four to five times the EPA standard for this chemical. The standard is known as the maximum residual disinfection level, or MRDL. Chlorine dioxide is an EPA-approved water treatment disinfectant. The order by the Department of Health recognizes that exposure to chlorine dioxide can cause serious health effects to the nervous systems of some infants, young children and to the fetuses of pregnant women.
Dr. Guidry said he took this step out of an abundance of caution, as the records provided by the water system are questionable and due to concerns about sampling and the testing technology used by the water system.
"Today, we were provided with information that is both alarming and confusing," said Dr. Guidry. 'We are concerned that there appears to be elevated levels of chlorine dioxide leaving the plant. But, we also have concerns about the testing procedures used by the water system and the overall training of the operators as well as questions about the technology used to conduct the sampling."
Guidry said he cannot say if the testing results provided to LDH are accurate and if the water is safe to drink. But out of an abundance of caution, he is taking the most aggressive steps possible to limit exposure to the chemical by customers of the water system. Dr. Guidry learned of the water system's test results late this afternoon and immediately took this action.
In addition to directing the system to change how it treats water, Guidry and the Department of Health immediately notified the Ascension Parish president, other local officials and the operators of the water system. Guidry has also consulted with an expert toxicologist about the situation to determine any known health effects of chlorine dioxide exposure.
Tomorrow, state health officials will conduct an on-site inspection of the system. The inspection will include on-site sampling of the water with a third-party vendor that uses the same technology as the water system to determine the most accurate levels of chlorine dioxide in the system. Depending on the results of the on-site visit, the Department of Health will take the appropriate next steps.
EPA OFFICIAL NOTIFICATION LANGUAGE:
The Peoples Water Company water supply is in violation of the maximum residual disinfectant level (MRDL) for chlorine dioxide as set forth by the State [Part XII of the Louisiana State Sanitary Code (LAC 51:XII)] and the Federal Primary Drinking Water Regulations (40 CFR Part 141).
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Louisiana Department of Health (LDHH) set drinking water standards and requires the disinfection of drinking water to kill disease-causing microorganisms. EPA and LDHH set standards for controlling the levels of disinfectants in drinking water, including chlorine dioxide. Some infants and young children who drink water containing chlorine dioxide in excess of the MRDL could experience nervous system effects. Similar effects may occur in fetuses of pregnant women who drink water containing chlorine dioxide in excess of the MRDL. Some people may experience anemia. The chlorine dioxide violations reported today are the result of exceedances at the treatment facility only, not within the distribution system which delivers water to consumers. Continued compliance with chlorine dioxide levels within the distribution system minimizes the potential risk of these violations to consumers.
In December 1998, EPA set an enforceable drinking water standard (MRDL) for Chlorine Dioxide at 0.8 milligrams per liter (mg/L) to reduce the risk of adverse health effects. We are required to monitor your drinking water for residual disinfectant level, such as chlorine dioxide, daily at the entry point to the distribution system. In the event that the daily chlorine dioxide level exceeds the MRDL (0.8 mg/L), the water system is required to collect three additional chlorine dioxide samples in the distribution system on the day following the exceedance. Results of regular monitoring are an indicator of whether or not your drinking water meets health standards. During an onsite inspection by LDHH on March 21, 2016, the chlorine dioxide sample records were reviewed. Daily chlorine dioxide sample records were found to have exceeded the MRDL for the months of September, October, November and December 2015 and January, and March 2016.
Additionally, Peoples Water Company failed to report the exceedances and collect the three additional chlorine dioxide samples in the distribution system on the day following the exceedance.
What should I do? What does this mean?
- DO NOT USE THIS WATER IF YOU ARE PREGNANT OR GIVE IT TO YOUNG CHILDREN. Bottled water should be used until further notice. Some infants and young children who drink water containing chlorine dioxide in excess of the MRDL could experience nervous system effects. Similar effects may occur in fetuses of pregnant mothers who drink water containing chlorine dioxide in excess of the MRDL. Some people may experience anemia.
The chlorine dioxide violations reported today do not include exceedances of the EPA standard within the distribution system which delivers water to consumers. Violations of the chlorine dioxide standard within the distribution system may harm human health based on short-term exposures. Certain groups, including fetuses, infants and young children, may be especially susceptible to nervous system effects from excessive chlorine dioxide exposure. There are no obvious symptoms, but chlorine dioxide can affect development of the nervous system.
- Water, juice and formula for young children and for pregnant women should not be prepared with tap water.
- Adults who are not pregnant and older children can drink the tap water because their nervous systems are already developed. However, if you have a specific health concerns, you may wish to consult your doctor.