UPDATE 1-New Orleans lifts possible water contamination warning

(Updates with warning lifted) By Kathy Finn

NEW ORLEANS, Oct 9 (Reuters) - New Orleans on Tuesdaycanceled an advisory about possible bacterial contamination ofits water supply, the second time in two years that a poweroutage in its aging water system had prompted a health warning.

"Tests confirmed water in the city is safe to drink," theLouisiana port city's government said in a statement Tuesdayafternoon.

Residents had scrambled to take precautions after Monday'sthree-minute outage at the city's main water plant left watersafety in doubt. At least 17 schools were closed, businesses andresidents were told to boil water, and some of the city's fabledrestaurants brought in ice from outside the region.

City and state officials issued the advisory "out of anabundance of caution" on Monday afternoon for about 300,000residents on the east side of the Mississippi River, where mostpeople in New Orleans live.

Residents were told not to drink, make ice, brush theirteeth or bathe using tap water, nor should they prepare or rinsefood with tap water without boiling it first. However,authorities said taking a hot shower using water that had passedthrough a water heater would be safe.

The city's Sewerage & Water Board director, Marcia St.Martin, said the power outage, which occurred as workers wereswitching two steam boilers, caused a drop in water pressurethat could expose the water supply to harmful bacteria.

St. Martin said a $12 million project to replace two steampumps by 2014 is under way and further renovations of the main

plant are planned.

But the timing of the warning prompted complaints that mostpeople had already consumed water when the board issued itsalert four hours after the power outage.

The Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group, which owns five arearestaurants including two within the city, said it was usingonly boiled or bottled water for cooking and cleaning, and hasbrought in additional water pumps for restroom use.

School officials said classes would resume on Wednesday.

(Editing by Corrie MacLaggan, Cynthia Johnston, Greg McCune andPaul Simao)