After The Flood, Officials Wrestle With E. Coli
By Sara Jerome
In flood-ravaged communities, officials have plenty to deal with when the rain clears. One of the common issues is high E. coli levels in rivers, ponds, and even tap water, as many recent storms have shown.
Colorado fell victim to E. coli during floods this year. The bacteria entered the water system in the town of Lyons, and residents were put on alert.
“We don’t want you using any of the water,” Victoria Simonsen, a town official, said in The LA Times last month.
Nebraska is facing E. coli problems, as well, all thanks to recent flooding.
"The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality will continue testing for at least a couple more weeks. Nebraskans are being advised not to drink any of the river water because ingesting E. coli can cause illness and even death," The AP recently reported.
And just last month in High River, a town in Canada, the same situation arose, with the bacteria being detected in ponds shortly after a flood.
Official have linked the incident to farms.
"The fact that there still is E. coli in the floodwater around High River is not unexpected. It’s also very common to have E. coli 0157 wherever there are dogs, cats, wildlife or runoff from livestock operations,” an official from High River said.
Once E. coli has entered the drinking supply, towns have limited options for cleaning it up. In Clearwood, WA, residents were advised to boil their drinking water before using it this week because E. coli was detected.
"That includes any water that may be consumed, including drinking water and water used to brush teeth, prepare food, make ice cubes, prepare baby formula, wash dishes or make tea or coffee," said Carolyn Cox, a public information officer, in Nisqually Valley News.
Utilities may also flush chlorine through the water supply to kill the bacteria.
As for discovering the problem in the first place, check out Water Online's previous coverage of an innovative new way to detect E. coli in water.
Image credit: "Colorado Flood," © 2013 Snap Man, used under an Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/deed.en