The road to drinkable water won’t be a short one in Lake Jackson after a brain-eating amoeba was found in the water system.
The discovery initially led officials to issue a do-not-use order for the Brazosport Water Authority. That was later changed to a boil-water notice for the city of Lake Jackson. Officials said they believe BWA’s distribution system is clean and that the issue is limited to Lake Jackson, where 11 of 54 sites tested there showed low levels of disinfectant.
Josiah McIntye, 6, was infected by the amoeba and died in early September, according to his mother.
At a briefing Tuesday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott was joined by state and local officials who all expressed their sorrow over Josiah’s death. Abbott said state and federal agencies are working with local officials around the clock to get to the bottom of what happened.
“We want to be clear, that we as leaders will be taking steps every single day to make sure that we are using every tool possible to quickly fix whatever is wrong," said Gov. Abbott.
Toby Baker, the head of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, committed to a transparent process of figuring out how Josiah became infected with the parasite and what happened to allow the amoeba to live in the water.
“This amoeba is very, very rare,” Baker said. “I don’t believe we’ve ever had, to my knowledge, the amoeba show up in a public drinking water system in the state of Texas.”
Baker said it could take up to three weeks before the boil-water notice is lifted for Lake Jackson, and then additional time will be needed to disinfect the system.
“After that, we have to get chlorine levels to a state that can burn the entire system, scour the system and kill the amoebas,” Baker said. “That could take up to an additional 60 days.”
Baker said agents from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are helping conduct tests to determine what level of disinfectant is needed and if any unfiltered water is getting into the system.
Chief Nim Kidd, head of the Texas Division of Emergency Management, said there have been about 4,500 vehicles that have driven through water distribution sites. Abbott thanked the private sector for helping to supply some of the water that’s being distributed.
While Baker said it’s still too early to speculate what caused the issue, Abbott said that the investigation of how Josiah became infected is centered around a splash pad.
Baker said monthly and quarterly testing records for Lake Jackson show nothing of concern leading up to the discovery of the amoeba.