City officials lift warning, boil order issued for bacteria found in drinking water

ST. GEORGE – St. George City water officials are lifting the drinking water warning and boil order put in place Sunday, following two consecutive clean water test results from the Fort Pierce Industrial Park Monday.

“Two samples taken, one day apart at the site of the possible contamination have tested negative, indicating there are no remaining signs of harmful bacteria in the water system or at the sampling location,” Water Services Director Scott Taylor said in a media statement issued Monday.

Officials are asking residents and businesses in the Fort Pierce Industrial Park to allow tap water to run for 10-15 minutes to clear water lines as a precautionary measure. Additionally, any ice made in ice machines over the last 48 hours in this area should be discarded.

A water sample taken in the Fort Pierce Industrial Park had tested positive for potentially harmful bacteria in the drinking water in that area during routine water quality testing over the weekend, according to a Water Service media statement issued Sunday.

Fecal coliform bacteria were found in the water distribution system in the industrial park and businesses and residents in the immediate area were asked to use bottled water or boil water before consumption.

Additional testing in and around the area isolated the fecal coliform to a single sampling station, the statement said. Multiple routine samples taken outside the Fort Pierce Industrial Park tested negative and indicated no signs of contamination including the residential areas of Bloomington Hills, Bloomington and Little Valley.

“The safety of our customers is and will always be our number one priority,” St. George City Mayor Jon Pike said in Monday’s media statement, adding that the reason the city routinely tests the water is to ensure that it is safe for consumption.

“A test result showing possible contamination, however rare, is reason for alarm,” Pike said, “and our crews reacted quickly and appropriately to address the situation.”

City water crews immediately replaced the contaminated sampling station, chlorinated and flushed the distribution system.

Due to the amount of chlorine used to disinfect the system, the maximum residual disinfection level, or MRDL, of chlorine was exceeded, officials said. Some people who use water containing chlorine well in excess of MRDL could experience irritating effects to their eyes and nose temporarily. Some people who drink water containing chlorine well in excess of the MRDL could experience stomach discomfort.

The chlorine residual concentrations have since returned to normal operating concentrations.

As this report is published, the cause of contamination at this location is unknown and is still under investigation.

How does E. coli or other fecal coliforms get in the water?

Fecal coliforms are bacteria that are associated with human or animal wastes, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s website. They exist in the intestines and feces of people and animals, and their presence in drinking water is a strong indication of recent sewage or animal waste contamination.

E. coli also comes from human and animal wastes.

“During rainfalls, snow melts, or other types of precipitation, E. coli may be washed into creeks, rivers, streams, lakes, or ground water,” according to the EPA. “When these waters are used as sources of drinking water and the water is not treated or inadequately treated, E. coli may end up in drinking water.”

E. coli O157:H7 was first recognized as a cause of illness during an outbreak in 1982 traced to contaminated hamburgers, the EPA website states. Since then, most infections are believed to have come from eating undercooked ground beef.

“However,” the site states, “some have been waterborne. In 1999, people became sick after drinking contaminated water in Washington County, New York, and swimming in contaminated water in Clark County, Washington.”

Resources

  • For additional information residents and businesses can contact the City of St. George Water Services Department at 435-627-4800 Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • General guidelines on ways to lessen the risk of infection by microbes are available from the Environmental Protection Agency Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791 or online
  • United States Environmental Protection Agency website

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Email: kscott@stgnews.com

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