A few weeks ago, I came across a heartbreaking news story about a 6-year-old boy from Texas who died after contracting a rare amoeba called Naegleria fowleri from the local water supply.
Naegleria fowleri can cause a rare, and usually fatal (fatality rate of more than 97%), infection in the brain called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC notes the infection occurs when contaminated water enters the body through the nose; people cannot be infected by swallowing water contaminated with Naegleria.
After the news broke about the little boy’s death, local officials tested the water — three of 11 samples taken came back positive for the amoeba. That prompted officials in eight Texas communities to issue stop water usage alerts to residents while they worked to disinfect the water supply.
This is a terrible tragedy — one I hope we can all learn from. As a plumber, it is your responsibility to protect your customers by inspecting their entire plumbing system on every call. Part of that inspection should include testing their water. While Naegleria folweri is very rare, there are plenty of more common contaminants, such as ammonia, chlorine, chloramines, fluoride, E. Coli and other bacteria, lead, mercury, nitrates and PFOS and PFAS.
Plumbers should also be asking every customer questions about their water quality. Do you know the properties of your local water supply and how it affects your customers?
Most customers probably won’t have any problems with their water, but what about the ones who do? Plumbers are supposed to be the experts — you are the ones who know how to install plumbing correctly to comply with the local and national plumbing codes to keep your customers safe and healthy.
Each home is different, with different plumbing systems and different water issues. If your plumbers are not inspecting the entire system when on a job, you are doing your customers a disservice. After all, it’s the plumber who protects the health of the nation.