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Addressing questions about water safety

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Addressing questions about the safety of our water supply
Posted on 09/30/2020
If you are following the news regarding the “Do Not Use” order for Lake Jackson residents related to the discovery of the Naegleria fowleri in that city’s drinking water system, it’s understandable to have questions about the safety of our local drinking water. Below are some facts about this specific amoeba, as well as what the cities of Bryan and College Station are doing to ensure the safety of your water supply.


Q: What is Naegleria fowleri?

A: Naegleria fowleri is a free-living microscopic amoeba, or single-celled living organism, that can cause a rare and devastating infection of the brain called primary amebic meningoencephalitis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Q. Where does Naegleria fowleri occur?
A: Naegleria Fowleri is found worldwide in warm, freshwater sources such as lakes, rivers, hot springs, and soil. According to the CDC, the amoeba grows best at higher temperatures up to 115°F, becoming less prevalent as temperatures decline.

Q. How could someone contract Naegleria fowleri?
A: Infections caused by this amoeba are exceedingly rare: from 2009-2018, there were 34 infections nationwide, and 30 of those were from contact with recreational water sources. Naegleria fowleri infections can occur when contaminated water enters the body through the nose. When the amoeba enters the brain, from the nose, it can cause Primary Ameobic Meningoencephalitis (PAM), which is usually fatal. It cannot be contracted by swallowing water contaminated with Naegleria fowleri or through an open wound.


Q: How is water for Bryan and College Station treated to prevent contamination?
A: Water for both cities is routinely disinfected with free chlorine to maintain at least the state-mandated minimum 0.2 milligrams per Liter (mg/L) disinfection level at the farthest reaches of the distribution systems in order to protect against this and other water-borne diseases. It should be noted that TCEQ is requiring Lake Jackson to bring its system into compliance with the 0.2 mg/l chlorine residual that our cities consistently maintain.

Bryan and College Station, along with other groundwater systems in Texas, are subject to the Groundwater Rule. While not specifically designed to protect against Naegleria fowleri, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality states that the Groundwater Rule will provide increased protection against microbial pathogens in public water systems using groundwater as a source. This rule requires sanitary surveys, monitoring of the system’s source water, and specific disinfection practices to protect groundwater-based systems from viruses and bacteria. Bryan and College Station’s entire water supply is sourced from groundwater, not surface water.

Q. Should I be concerned about Naegleria fowleri in my drinking water?
A: While an understandable concern, the answer is no. In addition to the aforementioned rigorous testing and treatment procedures, it is extremely difficult to contract this infection. A person is far more likely to come into contact with an amoeba while swimming in a freshwater lake or river.


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