News Feature | June 4, 2018

Death Sparks Contamination Scare In Idaho Town

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

A man’s death sparked a water contamination scare in the Idaho town of Dietrich in late May.

“The death of a municipal worker in the small town of Dietrich has prompted city leaders to question the well-being of the town’s water supply,” Boise State Public Radio reported.

Concerns arose that the man may have contaminated the well serving the town’s 300 residents. It is unclear why those concerns arose, Magic Valley reported.

“Tom Young, 62, was found dead [on Thursday, May 24] by emergency workers who were sent to a hospital after entering his residence in Dietrich. Lincoln County Sheriff Rene Rodriguez said [the next day] that Young's death has been ruled a suicide and the cause is asphyxiation by nitrogen gas released into the home from a tank,” ABC News reported.

The gas was said to be the cause of sickness for seven emergency workers, who were transported to the hospital. All were later released.

State authorities began testing Dietrich water after Young was found, Magic Valley reported. “The Dietrich mayor said at the time there were concerns that the man had somehow contaminated the water,” the report stated. A boil-water advisory was put in place.

On May 31, the boil-water order was lifted, KMVT reported.

“According to Payson Reese, the Lincoln County Communications Officer they received word from [state authorities] that all tests have come back negative and clean,” the report said.

As of May 30, the boil-water advisory remained in place, Magic Valley reported. The Department of Environmental Quality stated that one sample came back clean while others tested positive for coliform initially. The coliform may be a result of depressurization that occurred during testing.

Memorial Day slowed down the process of water testing. Potable water was available at the fire hall while the boil-water notice was in place.

“Dietrich Mayor Don Heike said he’s breathing a little easier after initial testing shows that Dietrich’s water supply is safe to drink,” Magic Valley reported.