News Feature | August 4, 2015

Turbidity Alerts Las Vegas Area To Water-Borne Diseases

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

Water utilities out West are contending with the effects of storm-driven contamination associated with high levels of turbidity.

Turbidity, a measurement of how much sediment is in the water, can create challenges for both water utilities and healthcare providers. Soil runoff is often the source.

High levels of turbidity can provide an opportunity for microbial growth. “Turbidity has no health effects on its own, but it can interfere with water treatment processes and may indicate the presence of disease-causing organisms including bacteria, viruses and parasites,” the Mohave Valley Daily News reported.

“These organisms can cause symptoms such as nausea, cramps, diarrhea, and associated headaches,” according to the EPA.

Big Bend Water District, a subsidiary of Las Vegas Valley Water District, issued a boil water notice in July that has since been lifted:

The Big Bend Water District routinely monitors your water for turbidity (cloudiness or sediment suspended in water) as a water quality parameter to test the effectiveness of Laughlin’s water treatment system. Water samples taken July 18, 2015 showed turbidity levels of 5-7 turbidity units, which was above the allowed limit of 1 turbidity unit by safe drinking water standards. The high turbidity was caused by floodwater flowing into the Colorado River. Exceeding this standard necessitates this Tier 1 Public Notification in accordance with state and federal laws.

Medical professionals are on alert. Western Arizona Regional Medical Center spokeswoman Tracey Bristol explained the safety protocols in place to fight water-borne illnesses.

As a part of the medical center’s surveillance program, “organisms that can cause water borne illnesses are being tracked and [the center] will immediately report to the Mohave County Health Department,” she said, per the news report.

“[The medical center] works closely with local county and public health departments,” she said. “Through a direct chain of communication, the Department of Health notifies Western Arizona Regional Medical Center of the diseases that need to be reported.”

In the aftermath of the boil water order, the water district suggested ratepayers take steps to ensure the safety of their drinking water. “As a precautionary measure, Laughlin residents are advised to flush their pipes and faucets to purge existing water and replace with fresh water. Flushing your household or building water system includes interior and exterior faucets; showers; water and ice dispensers; water treatment units,” the utility said in a notice.

For similar stories, visit Water Online’s Source Water Contamination Solutions Center.