On Tuesday, Sept. 22 the Louisiana Department of Health (DHH) verified the Greater Ouachita Water Company had reached 1.0 mg/L of free chlorine throughout the water system. The chlorine burn is a response to the previously confirmed presence of Naegleria fowleri, commonly called the brain-eating ameba, on September 1 in the North Monroe Water System (owned by Greater Ouachita Water Company), which serves the town of Sterlington.

The chlorine burn will last for at least 60 days. A 1.0 mg/L residual of free chlorine must be maintained throughout the full 60-day burn. If the residual levels dip below the 1.0 mg/L requirement, the clock for the chlorine burn will restart. The chlorine burn will help reduce biofilm, or organic buildup, throughout the water system and will kill the ameba.

Tap water from the North Monroe Water System is safe for residents to drink, but the Department urges residents to avoid getting water in their noses. Naegleria fowleri is an ameba that occurs naturally in warm, still freshwater. North Monroe Water System buys its drinking water from the Monroe Water System. The Department also tested water samples from the Monroe Water System for Naegleria fowleri; those results were negative for the ameba.

LDH requires public water systems to disinfect (chlorinate) drinking water to protect the public from disease-causing microorganisms. Chlorine and chloramines are common disinfectants used by water suppliers to kill bacteria in drinking water. If the disinfectant residual is too low, microorganisms can potentially grow in the distribution system. Maintaining a higher level of chlorine has shown to eliminate the ameba.

The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens. To learn more about LDH, visit www.dhh.louisiana.gov. For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow DHH's Twitter account and Facebook.