Third World Watch: Deadly Brain Amoeba Found in US Tap Water

For six years, we’ve discussed off and on how income inequality hurt the health of citizens, even in the top income strata. The US now ranks 27th in life expectancy among 34 advanced economies, down from 20 in 1990.

But in addition to the considerable health dangers of stress and weak social bonds, more obvious public health risks may be coming to the fore. Strained municipal budgets means reduced public services, and they can have direct health impact, such as frequency of garbage pickup, the level of staffing of emergency services, the number of hospital beds per capita (consider what happens if you have a natural disaster or disease outbreak and the number of sick and injured exceed the capacity of local facilities).

The public water supply in a New Orleans parish is now a health hazard. From NBC:

A deadly brain amoeba that’s killed two boys this year has been found in a U.S. drinking water supply system for the first time, officials said Monday — in a New Orleans-area system..

“We have never seen Naegleria colonizing a treated water supply before,” said Dr. Michael Beach, head of water safety for the CDC. “From a U.S. perspective this is a unique situation.”

N. fowleri is a heat-loving amoeba that’s usually harmless, unless it gets up someone’s nose…. There, the amoeba reproduces and the brain swelling and infection that follows is almost always deadly.

It killed a Miami-area boy last month — 12-year-old Zachary Reyna — and a 12-year-old Arkansas girl, Kali Hardig, is recovering slowly after an unusual experimental treatment.

N. fowleri is usually found in warm, fresh waters all over the world. It’s been seen in hot springs and swimming holes, freshwater lakes and even in neti pots used to clean out sinuses. Incomplete disinfection probably allowed it to thrive in St. Bernard, which has its own independent water system, Beach says…

N. fowleri has only been reported in about 130 people in the U.S. since 1962, making it extremely rare. Kali Hardig is only the third person known to have survived infection…

Lousiana health department spokesman Ken Pastorick says officials are flushing out and decontaminating the St. Bernard Parish system, a process that may take several weeks.

“They have shocked the water, so to speak,” Pastorick said. “What has caused the problem here is low chlorination.” Pastorick says other Louisiana water systems are safe.

Beach says it’s not necessary to test water systems for the amoeba. Proper chlorination should always take care of it, he says.

And he stresses that water is safe to drink and bathe in even if it’s contaminated. Stomach acid appears to kill the amoeba, and people can protect themselves by not snorting water up their noses, or not allowing it to be forced up the nose.

St. Bernard water customers are being cautioned not to fill kiddie pools with tap water, or to use other water toys such as the sliding game that the 4-year-old boy who died was playing on. Topping up swimming pools with hoses is a bad, idea, too, unless the water first goes through the disinfection system.

“The critical piece is kids in the water,” Pastorick says.

Now on the surface, this may not sound like a big deal. Poor New Orleans parish screws up, putting kids at risk, but it can fix the problem cheaply and quickly. But the problem is the pathogen should never have been in the water in the first place. Chlorine is inexpensive, so that suggests the contamination resulted from human failings. One has to wonder if those are budget related, due to reduced staffing or changes in supervision procedures.

Readers might cynically go further and argue that we may well see a lot of this sort of localized, poor area health problems, since the rich are insulated by physical separation. But that only goes so far. As lower income people become less healthy relative to wealthier individuals and are also put more at risk due to deteriorating public services, it is only a matter of time before a contagion spreads through a crowded, low income area (mind you, it might not have started there, but a cluster of susceptible people could be an accelerant). Dream if the wealthy can protect themselves all that well. Many “world cities” have high populations densities. Hospitals are disease vectors even under normal circumstances. And public health officials are monitoring worrisome pathogens like bird flus and drug-resistant tuberculosis.

The problem, of course, is that it will likely take some sort of calamity for the rich to realize that they can’t fully insulate themselves from the rest of society. And the sort of incident that will wake them up to that risk will almost certainly exact a bigger toll on everyone else, unless it’s of the guillotine and pitchforks variety.

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  1. T Ernst

    Does every story have to degenerate into a rich vs poor controntaion?
    you have become boring and repetitive

    1. Virmont

      Your entertainment is a secondary concern.

      To channel an updated version of Bismarck’s quote: “The great questions of the day will not be settled by means of speeches and majority decisions but by rich vs poor confrontation.”

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      To not point out the wealth issue would miss the elephant in the room.

      1. St. Bernhard is a poor parish

      2. This is a disease you simply don’t see in the water supply of advanced economies.

      If you don’t want to read about the most pressing issue of our age, the Web is a big place. No one is making you read this blog.

      1. psychohistorian

        But Yves, you are harshing this person’s mellow with postings like this…….and I thank you for it.

    3. YankeeFrank

      Pray tell us what it is that we can do to avoid boring you my liege! Does hearing the travails of the poor depress you? We shall shoot them into the face of the sun forthwith!

    4. Foppe

      So you don’t find it curious that this happened, given how easily it could’ve been prevented if sufficient chlorine had been added to the water? What other explanation do you have for this occurrence? “Oops”? Not adding chlorine to water supplies is a bit like forgetting to brush one’s teeth; there is no excuse. Hence Yves’s choosing to prod the story…

      (Now, I realize you don’t care about critical thinking, and just want entertainment, but that’s your own problem.)

    5. Francois T

      Facts can be boring. That is why the rubes, the vulgus populi prefers a neat and exciting story…just like Faux news provides every day to its audience.

      But we all know what happen to the Faux news audience’s brains, don’t we?

    6. Generalfeldmarschall Von Hindenburg

      To be fair to Mr. T here, the richest people living are susceptible to the effects of neglected infrastructure, weird Monsanto foodlike comestibles, CJD, &c

    7. gtg2013

      T Ernst: “Does every story have to degenerate into a rich vs poor controntaion?”

      This has it exactly backwards. The question really is: Why are so few stories, outside of places like this fine blog, *clarified* by exposing the class conflicts at their source?

  2. Mafer

    Your entertainment is a secondary concern.

    To channel an updated version of Bismarck’s quote “The great questions of the day will not be settled by means of speeches and majority decisions but by rich vs poor confrontation.”

  3. Chalmetian

    The water directly to the north of Chalmette which is the primary town in St. Bernard was a brackish water swamp due to the flow of salt water coming in from Lake Borgne. Since the building of the MRGO Flood Wall which runs across these very swamps, the flow of salt water has completely stopped and these swamps which surround the most heavily populated areas are now basically shallow freshwater lakes.

    The primary water treatment plant in the parish borders one of these newly freshwater lakes. And as the article says, “N. fowleri is usually found in warm, __fresh__ waters all over the world.” Coincidence?

    1. Jim Haygood

      St. Bernard Parish, with a population of 35,000, lies to the east of New Orleans.

      The water problem was not in Orleans Parish, as one sentence implies.

  4. Skeptic

    “…since the rich are insulated by physical separation. But that only goes so far. ”

    The 1% and their minions are smart enough to know that there are consequences to the Great Social Divide and they are taking steps to insulate themselves. As they crank everyone else down, they crank up their Insulation Infrastructure. Any Billionaire worth their Sociopathic Salt will spend mucho capital to ensure against having to suffer like the riffraff. Thus the 1% need even more money to protect themselves. And they’ll get it.

    Where are our esteemed Economists on this one?

    1. newyorker

      Yes, i believe the 1% know more than we do about the destiny of this runaway train we’re all on. It wouldn’t surprise me if they’re planning an earth-bound version of ‘elysium’, and let the rest of us rot. Or maybe i’m being overly paranoid.

      Great movie, btw. A good metaphor for the coming dystopia.

  5. XO

    Lots of moldering, abandoned castles in Europe were built for the same purpose. A lot of good that did those who had them built.

    Money cannot control those who have none. Not for long, anyway.

    1. Richard Kline

      But you can kill them. And then buy others with a few pennies to put about the story that they all killed each other fighting over a scrap of bread. And deserved to be killed anyway. That works for a lot longer.

        1. citizendave

          There is a great scene in Braveheart (IIRC) in which a conscript army of Irish men under English command face a similar army of Scots. The English commanders order the Irish to charge, and the two sides run toward each other, yelling — and when they meet, instead of fighting, they laugh and embrace each other as brothers — much to the surprise and chagrin of the English.

    2. LifelongLib

      Many of the old European aristocrats were cash poor. They had land, houses, horses etc. (which had counted as wealth in medieval times) but as the economy modernized the money was mainly in the hands of the merchant class. Maybe today’s wealthy will someday become as outmoded as the aristocrats became, if indeed they aren’t already.

  6. Brooklin Bridge

    The rich have dealt with this problem before and will do so again. It’s never perfect, of course, some mingling with the by-product of their own pathological greed the miserable and the wreched is unavoidable, but it can be seen as part of the heavy burden of being civilized.

    India is a good example. Does the notion of karma and past lives – the whole cast system – exist to ease the conscience of the rich and perpetuate the subjugation of the poor (you were wonderful in past lives so you richly deserve all this wealth you are hoarding blessed with in this one, and the, heh, heh, somewhat less enviable corollary explanation for why one is stark naked poor within a stones throw of filthy rich) or does it explain a hidden spiritual reality?

    Humans seem to do get caught up in this twisted drama over and over again, like children who can never get enough of the vastly more innocent game, “can’t see you now…” and this time they are hoping technology will be more efficient and successful at insulating them and their self serving fantacies than the cast system, or religion, or whatever was in the last go round. Nature will have a few surprises for them, but overall, if you discount the very real possibility of extinction due to going too far with the environment, it will work with much the same twists and turns as it always does.

    1. Brooklin Bridge

      Actually, nature may provide somewhat of solution this time around in the form of a serious population reduction, maybe even down to zero. In theory, it does not look as though we can expand our numbers infinitely on a finite planet though in our intrepid never give up sort of way, we have made every possible effort to test that theory to the limit.

      1. F. Beard

        There will be at least a 1000 years of resources left on planet Earth when the Lord sets up His kingdom. Admittedly about 50% to 75% or more of us will have been reduced to ashes but there will a huge population explosion afterward as those found worthy to survive reproduce.

              1. citizendave

                Yesterday, awake in bed at 2 AM, the story of the loaves and fishes swam into my conscious mind. For many years I have regarded the loaves and fishes stories (two stories) not as creation ex nihilo miracles, but as stories of inspired generosity. Seeing the example of Jesus and his band sharing what little food they had, those among the multitude who had food concealed in their garments and satchels brought it forth to share with those around them. We’ve seen stories lately that those with a little more than those around them are more willing to share what little they have, than those who have a great deal more, and can never seem to acquire enough. The miracle was that this man was like a catalyst to inspire that sense of sharing generously.

                1. F. Beard

                  Nonetheless, there are clearly miracles in the Bible they cannot be reasoned away. And I don’t buy for a minute that the loaves and fishes incidents were not miracles otherwise the Lord would not have chided His disciples about their unbelief with regard to.

                  1. citizendave

                    It was miraculous because those who had food with them guarded it carefully — they did not flash their cash in the midst of a large crowd of strangers. They would not have shared it, nor partaken of it while in the throng of thousands. When it was shared, it was done carefully, with those nearby, and those nearby cooperated in the covert sharing, so as not to spoil the gift by attracting the attention of others. Something like that — maybe those with food outnumbered those without, and it was easy.

                    That’s how it is today — most of us keep our finances and assets secret, except from IRS. If you give something away, you may attract a crowd, so if you are smart you will handle your charity discreetly. The .1% can’t keep it secret, but they can afford to protect it. The rest of us try to hang on to what we’ve got, and we don’t advertize it. “The Millionaire Next Door” is a guidebook on how to avoid drawing attention to your wealth.

                    Anyway, there is no creation ex nihilo in my physics. But I suppose the man could have been a Vulcan with replicator or transporter technology. And btw I believe it took 14 billion years of evolution to arrive at this point. And we’re still evolving, so we have not yet thoroughly learned that it’s a mistake to cut down the last tree on Easter island.

                  2. citizendave

                    adding, looking at the stories of miracles in terms of human-scale interaction, of haves and have less and have none, gives me a way to relate to the subject of the post, as well as to salvage something useful to me from what is otherwise other-worldly and alien to my way of thinking. I don’t want to challenge your faith — it’s obviously working for you. In my metaphysics, “miracle” means I do not yet comprehend how it works. To me, quantum mechanics is miraculous because I have not yet been able to comprehend it. My takeaway is that we do not yet fully understand the forces at work. Nor do we fully understand how to operate a fair and just economy.

        1. psychohistorian

          F. Beard,

          You remind me of Master Paul in the story by DH Lawrence “The Rocking Horse Winner”.

          Have you ever read it? It is a short story (6015 words) and can be found online here:

          In your case I believe that your house is whispering “There must be more faith!”.

          Please free yourself from the shackles of ignorance….and thank you for thinking.

          1. F. Beard

            Here, I only expect faith in honesty wrt to economics but clearly I have expected too much based on the resistance to abolishing the government-backed banking cartel.

            I guess it really is a spiritual thing. Think how much the Devil benefits from the present system!

          2. F. Beard

            Interesting story and who knows how the secret lives of children affect us?

            “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven. Matthew 18:10

    2. Lexington

      India is a good example. Does the notion of karma and past lives – the whole cast system – exist to ease the conscience of the rich and perpetuate the subjugation of the poor…or does it explain a hidden spiritual reality?

      OT, but all the world’s great religions became great by forging a successful alliance with secular power in which they received “state sponsorship” (so to speak) in exchange for legitimizing the status quo.

      Christianity taught that your station in life was the result of God’s inscrutable will, which is indecipherable and beyond question or doubt, and that if your lot in this life is hard the answer is not to try and change it -which is blasphemy against the will of God- but to look forward to better days in the next life.

      1. F. Beard

        Christianity taught that your station in life was the result of God’s inscrutable will, which is indecipherable and beyond question or doubt, and that if your lot in this life is hard the answer is not to try and change it -which is blasphemy against the will of God- but to look forward to better days in the next life. Lexington

        Plausible but wrong:

        Were you called while a slave? Do not worry about it; but if you are able also to become free, rather do that. 1 Corinthians 7:21 [bold added]

        1. Walter Map

          Bad things happen to good people to balance out the good things that happen to bad people. And Jesus is okay with slavery.

          This justice must be divine, because it only works for gods and not for people.

          1. F. Beard

            Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:34-36 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

            1. Walter Map

              Jesus, admitting to being a slave to sin: “Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God” Matthew 19:17 KJV

              Mary: Very good.

              1. F. Beard

                Are you that stupid? If not, then prove it by giving the generally accepted interpretation of that rhetorical question?

                1. Walter Map

                  Thin-skinned, aren’t we?

                  Jesus said you shouldn’t go around calling people fools. Matthew 5:22. You could be in danger of hellfire.

                  Of course, he then turns around and does it himself (Matthew 23:17 and 23:19), so maybe you’re okay.

                  Thank you for the dance.

                  1. F. Beard

                    In your case, I thought a rhetorical question was safe wrt Hellfire. But perhaps the greater danger is that I have cast pearls before a swine.

                    Or are you just having a very bad day? week? year? life?

                  2. F. Beard

                    Btw, a fool is someone who refuses to learn and the Lord has certainly had long experience dealing with such. And also this:

                    But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man. John 2:24-25 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

                    Now run along. Oink! Oink!

                    1. Walter Map

                      I would never call you a fool, Mr. Beard. I prefer to let the facts speak for themselves.

                      The Bible is a very uncertain guide to morality, what with the contradictions, hypocrises, and predeliction to gratuitous violence and wanton cruelty. This no doubt explains why Amerika, which many claim to be a “Christian” nation, has so many horrific moral problems.

                      I’d caution you to be careful about that book, but it would seem I’m far too late.

                    2. F. Beard

                      Yes, it’s far too late for me because I’ve read it all. And it makes sense!

                      Your danger is you have not read enough. You really don’t know it near well enough to pass judgement. But you think you do and that is very dangerous.

                  3. psychohistorian

                    When one has the blind hammer of faith, everything becomes a nail.

                    I doubt you understand that many of us here have read and know the hammer/book you refer to better than you….and have learned to reject the ignorance/faith it demands….but it would make great mythology.

        2. Lexington

          You’re arguing scripture, I’m referencing centuries of extremely well documented church dogma.

          If your point is that church dogma often didn’t seem fully consistent with scripture, or that scripture itself contains so many internal contradictions that genuine doctrinal consistency is impossible – well, no argument from me.

          Completely different issue however.

          1. F. Beard

            or that scripture itself contains so many internal contradictions that genuine doctrinal consistency is impossible Lexington

            The more I read the Bible, including the Old Testament, the more consistent I find it.

            In any case, Scripture is authoritative to Christians. Show me some Scripture that conflicts, in your opinion, with what I quoted and we can argue whether a true contradiction exists.

            1. Walter Map

              The more I read the Bible, including the Old Testament, the more consistent I find it.

              I blame the brain amoebas.

            2. Joe Miller

              Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.~Romans 13:1 (NIV)

  7. Pete

    Chlorine and Flouride aren’t exactly healthy for the human body either….
    “Americans are ingesting from 300 to 600 times what the
    Environmental Protection Agency considers a “safe” amount
    While chlorine itself is relatively benign, and was created to help keep us free from infectious diarrheas, it reacts with organic materials which already dissolve in water, forming chemicals (known as DBP’s) that are over 100 times more toxic than chlorine.”

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Fluoride is a different matter, but you can dechlorinate water by letting it sit out uncovered overnight or boiling it a bit.

      Most people my age grew up with fluoride in their drinking water (you need it when your teeth are forming to get the health benefits). I didn’t. The result is, as one dentist in Australia said, “You have the history of dentistry in your mouth.” By contrast, my younger brothers had virtually no cavities. The stuff works, like it or not.

      Now it would probably be better to just give fluoride tablets to the parents of toddlers, but that takes more effort and the parents might not follow the regime (not just out of philosophical opposition but lack of attentiveness…..)

      1. anon y'mouse

        in Europe, I believe they fluoridate table salt instead of the entire water supply.

        seems more efficient, and less costly, to me!

  8. Jay

    I’ve often wondered about the fact that although the poor cannot adequately attain routine healthcare, the authorities have seen fit to make influenza inoculations nearly universal. I supposed that it was because Little Lord Fauntleroy looked upon his housekeepers and nannies and gardeners and food preparers as possible sources of infection. Due to the sequester, it appears that the powers that be will discontinue even that program. It brings to mind Edgar Allen Poe’s story, The Masque of the Red Death. Party on, Prince Pennywise!

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      My guess is the real issue isn’t potential sources of infection or there would be pressure for a number of changes in how healthcare is administered, such as endeavoring to not promote superbugs. The issue is probably the cost versus what the flu vaccine can be sold.

      Its like mammograms and colonoscopies. Yes, some people should have them more routinely, but the actual value is dubious if believe results from Europe where the for-profits tendencies of non-existent or curbed.

    2. piggy wig stood

      My thoughts exactly.

      “The external world could take care of itself. In the meantime it was folly to grieve, or to think. The prince had provided all the appliances of pleasure. There were buffoons, there were improvisatori, there were ballet-dancers, there were musicians, there was Beauty, there was wine. All these and security were within. Without was the ‘Red Death.’ “

  9. ep3

    Yves, how is chlorine safe to drink? I know it’s only “1 part per billion”. But even if my water was not safe, those in power would not tell me so.
    Second. This is just another push to make everything privatized. ‘Hey everyone, drink bottled water. It’s safer than city water. And only 4.99 a gallon. That’s more than milk and gasoline!’
    Then: ‘Private industry would never let water go bad. It’s those dang union city workers who make bad water.’

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      A lot of 70+ yr old celebrities look like they are in their 40’s.

      You read that everyday in the news.

      I think we need to differentiate 0.01% life expectancy vs 99.99% life expectancy, like almost everything else these days.

      One day, they will become immortal…because they have enough money to do it.

  10. Francois T

    Yves wrote:

    And public health officials are monitoring worrisome pathogens like bird flus and drug-resistant tuberculosis.

    Allow me to indulge a very evil grin here: When one looks at what’s coming upon us, calling the actual situation “worrisome” is tantamount to call a B-52 with full payload of napalm a “personal defense weapon”.

    As per Dr. Thomas Frieden of the CDC:

    “We talk about a pre-antibiotic era and an antibiotic era,” he said Monday. “If we’re not careful, we’ll be in a post-antibiotic era. For some patients and some microbes, we’re already there.”

    To be graphically clear: A post-antibiotic era means, no more safe C-sections, horribly risky abdominal surgeries,(tough luck if kiddo has appendicitis!) trauma surgery with a zooming upward rate of amputations…you name it!

    As for “the wealthy” going all in to protect themselves, meet air, as in “the air we all breathe“. This is one of the medium of transportation the so-called superbugs are starting to be able to use.

    Good luck insulating yourself against that.

  11. curlydan

    Is the problem is limited to the the New Orleans-sourced “tap water”? Most bottled water is just the local tap water plus a few more filters, so conceivably, this could be in the New Orleans bottled water if a bottled water company uses that source.

    It’s a tragedy that the 4-yr old boy died from doing something so innocent and fun as playing on a water slip’n’slide toy.

    1. curlydan

      I guess since the water has to be snorted up the nose that it’s not as big of an issue with bottled water, but my main point is that bottled water may not be perfectly safe either.

  12. Keith Howard

    Dear Yves,

    In your last paragraph you write “… it will take some sort of calamity …”
    To my mind all of our systemic crises present this same situation. Calamities resulting in chaos, disordering of fundamental social relations, etc. on a very large scale will certainly occur. An event or group of events that quickly reduce the human population by two-thirds, for instance, and hence reduce GHG emissions might be beneficial for the future habitability of our planet. But shouldn’t we be thinking about what we would salvage, what prohibit, and what redefine in the case that we find ourselves finally and indisputably in the same boat?


    1. Lambert Strether

      I’m thinking/guessing that a highly optimized global supply chain exihibits exactly the sort of “tight coupling” that Yves has warned against in financial systems — and would bring calamity. Good guess? Bad?

      1. Walter Map

        I think somebody just forgot to tell the new guy that it’s his job to do the chlorine thing. Either that or somebody went on vacation and nobody covered the vacationer’s duties.

        If there’s a systemic problem, it probably has more to do with the modern management practice of de-emphasizing quality control as a cost-saving measure.

        Waiting for people to start turning up dead doesn’t qualify as an effective QC practice, but there’s no real consequences to those responsible and it does reduce costs, mostly by externalizing them.

  13. neo-realist

    Has anybody considered the possibility that the presence of the amoeba and the failure to properly decontaminate was the initiation of some sort of experimental germ warfare against the poor? “Kill Kill Kill Kill the Poor”—The Dead Kennedys

    1. anon y'mouse

      although you can’t put anything past “Them”, someone notes above that the water facility is very close to a perfect breeding space for this bacteria. so it suggests something relatively innocent, like animal or human cross contamination or a leak somewhere.

      our water supplies are usually right out in the open and not terribly well guarded or protected. here’s something that happened near us not long ago:

      1. neo-realist

        I guess the next time I drive down to Portland, I’m going to have to start buying bottled water unless they’ve gotten some sense and started protecting their reservoirs.

  14. Harry

    “Consider what happens if you have a natural disaster or disease outbreak and the number of sick and injured exceed the capacity of local facilities.”

    FEMA activates a number of programs, including DEMPS.

    DEMPS teams deploy MASH units with military escorts. They may set up in hospital car parks. the teams triage and label all patients, only those who need treatment get inside the hospital.

    When triaged, a wrist or armband is issued:

    White: You’re okay, stop whining.
    Yellow: Walking wounded, you’ live but you need help.
    Red: You’ll live with medical care, front of line.
    Black: You’re dead, you just don’t know it yet.

  15. MRW

    Veolia succeeded in privatizing the municipal water supply of the following US cities. In Atlanta, after Veolia took over, they fired all the municipal workers who understood how the system worked. When problems arose, Veolia workers had no clue how to fix them. They hiked the water rates to bring in what they said were needed: specialists.

    New Orleans LA
    Grand Canyon AZ
    Atlanta GA
    Chicago IL
    Tampa FL

    Veolia has contracts with municipalities across the country. Here is the list by state and city, and the nature of the contracts. No one really knows about this.

    Right now Nestle is stealing the groundwater in a section of British Columbia to put in its bottled water. For free. Taking the water that belongs to the people of the province.

  16. steve from virginia

    Let’s see …

    Counties are ‘parishes’ in Louisiana. New Orleans resides in Orleans Parish (like Detroit is in Wayne County).

    St. Bernard Parish is east of Orleans parish, between the Mississippi River, Lake Borgne and the Gulf of Mexico. Like much of south Louisiana it is only a few feet above sea level. New Orleans’ Ninth Ward is due west of St. Bernard Parish.

    Plaquemines Parish officials are also testing for amoebas in the water supply: the parish is down-river from St. Bernard.

    Unlike the Ninth Ward (where I used to live) St. Bernard is almost 90% white, with people having lived in the Parish for generations, with employers being real estate- and petro-chemical industries, the US military and tourism. St. Bernard is not a low-income community.

    St. Bernard was slammed by Hurricane Katrina which blew up its water and sewer systems. For over a year, water was delivered and sewage collected by trucks. Half of the housing stock was destroyed or severely damaged. A number of people left the parish for the same reason people left other Katrina-ravaged communities. At the same time, billions in Federal dollars flowed into to parish for rebuilding.

    There is the possibility that the amoeba problem in US water is climate-related: reflecting the expanding range of the organism. A related problem is ability of microorganisms to adapt to chemical treatments such as chlorination. Insufficient chlorination does have an adverse effect as it tends to force evolution, weeding out weaker, less-evolved individuals, the survivors becoming increasingly resistant to chlorine or other treatments over time.

    The CDC just issued a warning about resistant disease organisms recently:

    1. Chalmetian

      “Unlike the Ninth Ward (where I used to live) St. Bernard is almost 90% white”
      Prior to Hurricane Katrina this was most definitely true. I hate to say it, but blacks stayed out of St. Bernard. For those of you who remember stories about the Fair Housing folks suing a Louisiana Parish for discrimintation against blacks with regard to post-Katrina rental property … yep, that parish was St. Bernard.

      Anyway, much of the housing stock (which was almost entirely flood damaged) was converted to rental property after Katrina so the exodus of the black population out of New Orleans and the increased Hispanic population due to the post-Katrina rebuilding has brought that number down considerably. It’s probably much closer to 60% now as a good portion of the pre-Katrina white population, which likely included most of the high income folks, never returned.

  17. backwardsevolution

    The two deceased children were both 12 years old, the perfect age for going swimming all summer long. The organism is only dangerous when it gets up the nose, something that happens often while swimming.

    I’d check out the pools they frequented. They’re often cleaned and chlorinated by teenagers/young adults with summer jobs. I’ll bet it’s the local pools that were not being chlorinated properly.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Um, the article quotes the CDC as saying it’s in tap water and it’s not supposed to be there. Chlorination levels in the public water supply are supposed to clear it out.

  18. mary

    Haven’t any of you “bothered” to watch the brilliant series “Treme”? If you haven’t then please do. New Orleans living in the aftermath of Katrina and the broken levies. Lots of whys and wherefores and consequences not found anywhere else. It’s a brilliant series coming to its end soon.

    1. neo-realist

      I saw season one and it was fabulous. Saw a little bit of season two and the quality fell off a bit—As I recall, more well written poverty people struggle in season one and more couples quarrelling in season two I believe. I’m behind on a few shows I like anyway–Breaking Bad and Boardwalk Empire. Maybe I’ll catch up.

  19. Bridget

    A guy died in Louisiana last year after using water from a public water supply in a neti pot. Most of the commenters here have clearly not spent much time in the New Orleans area, because none of this comes as a surprise to anyone who has. The problem is not just money, it’s just how they roll. I can assure you, if another big hurricane blows through there, they will be no better prepared than they were for Katrina.

  20. Sanford Calef

    I agree with Yves. When it comes to public health, we’re all in this together.(like it or not.)

    In the 90’s the main public hospital in Dallas(Parkland) opened up small community health centers to keep the main hospital from being constantly overcrowded. These clinics served primarily poor inner cities areas.

    The wealthier suburbs around Dallas quite naturally resented this increase in govt expenditures that they would never benefit from. It seemed far cheaper to just leave Parkland overcrowded and close the satellite clinics.

    The County Commissioners Court finally did just that. And that should have been the end of the story.

    However within a few years TB and other strange diseases begin to show up in the suburbs. In the schools, from workers who came in from the city. Also in restaurants and other businesses. People go to where the jobs are. Poor sick people just suck it up and take their illnesses with them.

    After this health scare The County Commissioners Court restored funding to the inner city clinics. Not out of charity for the poor, but for the sensible preservation of their own health.

  21. Elliot

    re: neti pots: never use tap water in them, duh. That is asking for infections. Boil it, or use distilled.

    Fluoride in drinking water is a cheap & democratic public health expenditure, the way chlorination is. (or vaccinations for herd immunity).

    Water supplies don’t know at the street ell what your income is, so purified water is good, and diseased or non-cavity fighting water is bad, for those of all income levels.

    My guess is that as our economy, and civility, falter, things like the amoeba outbreak will become more and more common, and rather than pry wallets open for taxes to improve infrastructure, there will be demonization of lower classes. (“they’re dirty and disease ridden!”) but airborne things, which might have come on vacation flights in business class, will be glossed over as inevitable.

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