by Wilma Subra
Lead in the Drinking Water of St. Joseph
Governor John Bel Edwards issue a Public Health Emergency Proclamation for the Town St. Joseph on December 16, 2016. The Public Health Emergency was based on lead levels detected in the St. Joseph drinking water above the Primary Drinking Water Standard (15 ppb).
The Governor ordered testing of every household in the town of St. Joseph within four weeks.
Town of St. Joseph Demographics
470 homes, businesses and schools
Town of St. Joseph Lead in Drinking Water
414 customers had their drinking water tested for lead and copper
21.7% of the customers had water that contained lead above the standard
90 homes had unsafe levels of lead in their home drinking water
52 connections were not sampled because homes or businesses were vacant or did not respond
Louisiana Department of Health
Out of an abundance of caution, the Louisiana Department of Health recommended residents use an alternative source of water for:
Personal consumption, Brushing of teeth, Making ice, Rinsing food and Food preparation
Additional precautions include mothers of new born babies should wash baby bottles and food storage containers with clean, safe water and use clean, safe water in preparing baby formula and baby juices.
The preparation of coffee, tea, Kool-Aid, etc should be done with clean, safe water, not tap water.
-St. Joseph tap water should not be used for the above purposes in order to protect the health of all members of the community.
-Boiling of water under a Boil Advisory does not get rid of the lead in the drinking water. Boiling for one minute will kill the harmful bacteria but may concentrate the lead in the water.
Health Impacts of Lead
Irritates eyes, Personality changes, Causes headaches, Upset stomach, Irritability, Poor appetite, Reduced memory, Weakness, Disturb sleep and mood, Fatigue, Probable carcinogen in humans, Some evidence causes lung, stomach, brain and kidney cancers in humans, May be a teratogen in humans (embryo malformation), Decreases fertility in males and females
Minor Children Population is the Most Negatively Impacted by Exposure to Lead
The most vulnerable populations exposed to lead are minor children six years of age and under the age of six. Low levels of lead in the blood affect IQ, slow a child’s development, cause learning and behavior problems, decreases ability to learn and decreases academic achievement. Lead is harmful to the developing brain and nervous system of fetuses and young children. Children exposed to lead have blood lead levels that increase more rapidly at 6 to 12 months and peak at 18 to 24 months. The effects of lead exposure cannot be corrected.
The standard for blood lead levels in children was 10 micrograms per deciliter up until 2012. Since that time, the reference level of lead in blood in children is 5 micrograms per deciliter. This reference level is based on the 97.5 % of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) blood lead distribution in children. At the end of December 2016, the U S Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced it was considering lowering the childhood blood lead reference level to 3.5 micrograms per deciliter. This consideration is based on new data from a national health survey.
The Louisiana Department of Health, Lead Program staff have made contact with homeowners and residents in St, Joseph that have elevated lead results in their water. The staff has emphasized the importance of getting all children ages 6 years and younger to be tested for lead in their blood.
Alternative Source of Drinking Water for St. Joseph
The Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) has provided and the Louisiana National Guard has been delivering bottle water to the citizens and businesses of St. Joseph. On Thursday February 2, 2017, the last delivery and of bottled water by the Louisiana National Guard was completed.
The Louisiana National Guard now is delivering clean, safe drinking water to the citizens and businesses of St. Joseph in water trailers. The water trailers were installed by the Louisiana National Guard and will be serviced by the Louisiana National Guard at the following locations:
St. Joseph Community Center (2 water trailers)
St. Joseph Parish Court House (2 water trailers)
St. Joseph Community Health Clinic (2 water trailers)
St. Joseph Levee Site (2 water trailers)
St. Joseph Location 3, near Washington and 7th Streets (2 water trailers)
St. Joseph Panola Street (1 water trailer)
St. Joseph High School (1 water trailer)
St. Joseph Elementary School(1 water trailer)
St. Joseph Academy (1 water trailer)
The water trailers are designed to provide 5 gallons of clean, safe water per day to each community member. Consider using one gallon or five gallon water bottles to fill at the water trailer locations. One gallon bottles are easier to handle by individuals. Five gallon containers can be used by those who are able to lift and transport the larger containers and may be easier to be used by businesses. Keep the water containers capped.
Louisiana Environmental Action Network has ordered 1,104 one gallon containers to be delivered to St. Joseph on Feb. 8 (caps) and Feb. 10 (bottles) to be used to fill with clean, safe water from water trailers.
Citizens Needs During Construction in St. Joseph
During the construction of the new water distribution lines and the water treatment facility, water may be turned off periodically due to construction activities. Boil advisories may also be issues due to construction, low water pressure, or inadequate residual chlorine levels in the distribution system. Citizen should be prepared for water outages by storing quantities of city water in containers clearly marked “Not for Drinking” and have hand sanitizer products and supplies of baby wipes available. Remember boiling water for one minute does not destroy the lead in the water, it just kills the bacteria. Do not consume city water after boiling for one minute.