E. coli found in Falmouth water supply
By: Press Release
UPDATE: Selectmen will hold a public forum on the status of the town's drinking water on Friday at 5 PM in the selectmen's meeting room, Falmouth Town Hall.
On June 15 at approximately 3:00 pm, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued a boil order for the Town of Falmouth.
Residents, hospitals, and eating establishments are ordered to boil water to be used for human or pet consumption or use bottled water.
What should I do?
- DO NOT DRINK ANY WATER WITHOUT BOILING IT FIRST. Bring all water to a boil, let it boil for one minute, and let it cool before using, or use bottled water.
- Boiled or bottled water should be used for drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes, and food preparation until further notice.
- Discard any ice, beverages, formula, and uncooked foods that were prepared with water from the public water system on or after June 7.
- FAQs from the US EPA
- Boil order guidelines from the MA Department of Public Healh
Residents were warned of the problem Tuesday night via a reverse 911 call from the Community Emergency Response Team to avoid drinking tap water, and boil any water for drinking, cooking, making ice, brushing teeth, or washing dishes until further notice.
The boil order is considered to be a proactive approach and a precautionary measure to avoid any potential health risks, said Water Superintendent William Chapman. Should two consecutive days of clean samples occur, the town said the boil order may be lifted with no adverse effects to public safety or health.
Bacterial contamination can occur when increased run-off enters the drinking water source, often following heavy rains. It can also happen due to a rupture in the distribution system (pipes) or a failure in the water treatment process.
E. coli bacteria were found in the water supply on June 7. These bacteria are a particular concern for people with weakened immune systems.
The town water department took 44 samples for coliform bacteria during June 2010. 16 of those samples showed the presence of coliform bacteria and five showed the presence of E. coli bacteria. DEP standards mandate that no more than 5 percent of samples may contain these harmful bacteria.
Why did this happen?
A majority of Falmouth’s drinking water comes from Long Pond, a surface water source. A common water quality disruption usually occurs twice a year (in the fall and spring) as the surface water of the pond becomes more dense than the lower level of the pond. This is commonly referred to as “pond turnover” and annually results in water quality issues such as taste, odor, turbidity events, loss of chlorine residuals in distribution samples that test positive of total coliform. Additionally, as a surface water source, Long Pond is susceptible to environmental issues including wildlife contamination and excessive runoff of the watershed.
It is believed that the naturally occurring turnover, higher than normal pond level and a recent rain event intensified our situation and caused a greater disruption in the water quality than in an average year.
- Fecal coliforms and E. coli are bacteria whose presence indicates that the water may be contaminated with human or animal wastes. Microbes in these wastes can cause diarrhea, cramps, nausea, headaches, or other symptoms. They may pose a special health risk for infants, young children, some of the elderly, and people with severely compromised immune systems. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, see your doctor or go to the emergency room immediately!
- Coliforms are bacteria which are naturally present in the environment and are used as an indicator that other, potentially-harmful, bacteria may be present. Coliforms were found in more samples than allowed and this was a warning of potential problems.
- The symptoms above are not caused only by organisms in drinking water. If you experience any of these symptoms and they persist, you may want to seek medical advice. People at increased risk should seek advice about drinking water from their health care providers.
What is being done?
The town has increased its disinfection dosages at the Long Pond Pumping Station and has begun flushing the system. According to Mr. Chapman, the situation should be resolved within 3 days.
For more information, contact William Chapman at 508-457-2543 or 416 Gifford Street, Falmouth, MA 02540. General guidelines on ways to lessen the risk of infection by microbes are available from the EPA Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1(800) 426-4791.
Please share this information with all the other people who drink this water, especially those who may not have received this notice directly (for example, people in apartments, nursing homes, schools, and businesses). You can do this by posting this notice in a public place or distributing copies by hand or mail.
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