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Power failure blamed in New Orleans water issues

NEW ORLEANS — Taps in New Orleans briefly went dry Sunday after a boiler’s heating flame malfunctioned in the immense steam generator that powers pumps for the city’s water treatment plant.

Marcia St. Martin, executive director of the city’s Sewerage and Water Board, said the failure lasted about 20 minutes Sunday morning.

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The loss of pressure opened the possibility of contamination and water samples are being taken citywide, she said.

St. Martin said all sample collection should be complete Sunday, and results should be available about 24 hours later. It takes that long to detect high levels of intestinal bacteria that could cause diarrhea.

Until the results are in, officials said, more than 300,000 residents on the Mississippi River’s east bank should boil water for drinking, brushing their teeth, preparing food, or anything else that might bring tap water into their bodies.

Most of New Orleans, including the French Quarter and Central Business District, is on the east bank. The treatment plant there provides about 135 million gallons of drinking water a day.

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