By Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska News and Margaret Friedenauer for KHNS News
Haines residents are being told to boil their drinking water after E. coli was found in the municipal water system.
The notice affects about 650 residents.
Local officials issued the notice Wednesday after a routine test turned up the bacteria. A followup notice detailed response options.
Haines Borough Manager David Sosa in an updated notice Thursday afternoon outlined the next possible steps the borough may take depending on the results of the updated tests. Those include:
- HELP (Haines Emergency Local Planning) Committee Meeting at 10 a.m. on 26 June 2015 (Borough Conference Room)
- Determination of requirement to stand up Emergency Operation Center
- Issuance of Water Conservation Notice
- Continued notification and updates to local residents and businesses
- Development of a structured plan for a full system purge with branch plans for partial purge
- Determination of leave cancellation of essential Borough Personnel
The E. coli result was found at the Piedad spring site. That spring was tied into the municipal water system a few years ago and is currently undergoing upgrades to enhance water treatment.
“There could be a septic system that’s leaking into it,” Sosa sayas. “There are a number of other options it could be. And we want to make sure we hit the right answer on this,” he says.
Sosa says the community’s main water source is a lake south of town. If tests show it’s clean, it can supply the whole community, without the spring-fed system.
“What we can do is cut off the water from that system, introduce more chlorine into the system, purge the entire system and then fill the system up. That would take time but that’s the safest and best action we can take for the community,” he says.
Residents are being told to boil their water for 2 minutes, which will kill off the bacteria. Some are also using bottled water.
E. coli can cause diarrhea, cramps and vomiting. Young children, older people and those with compromised immune systems can experience kidney failure.
Those getting water from other sources like wells or at local springs are not affected. (The borough and state do not monitor the springs on Mud Bay Road or 6 Mile Haines Highway.)
Borough Manager Sosa says informational fliers were posted around Haines and delivered door-to-door. He also informed the local clinic.
“I went over to [the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium] and I spoke with the administrator there and with the staff so I could advise them of the situation so they could be prepared to look for potential symptoms that might be associated with this,” he says.
The borough will continue to issue notices and updates today (Friday) when more information becomes available.