E. coli Threat Puts Parts of Long Island Under Boil Water Order

A “boil water” alert was just issued for a number of locations in Long Island’s Nassau County over potential contamination with the E. coli bacteria. The Water Authority of Western Nassau County (WAWN) issued the alert following positive E. coli sampling conducted July 18th and 19th, said The Garden City News Online.

WAWN recommends all impacted customers boil their water before drinking it. Water should be safe in another day or so, according to a WAWN official, said The Garden City News Online.

WAWN said that the E. coli pathogen was present in samples collected July 18th and that resampling of the area tested revealed no E. coli and no Total Coliform; however, other sampling turned up Total Coliform, but no E. coli. The “boil order” was required and issued, according to The Garden City News Online.

Janice Foley, a WAWN spokeswoman said that the authority printed thousands of flyers to be distributed door-to-door to customers, a legal mandate, noted The Garden City News Online.

The Garden City News Online reported that water mains in the contamination areas will be flushed by WAWN; chlorine (sodium hypochlorite) levels will be increased to ensure disinfection of the distribution system; and sampling of wells, storage tanks, and treatment facilities will continue.

The advisory warns customers to bring all drinking water to a boil for one minute and to allow that water to cool before using it. Bottled water is also recommended. In addition to being used for drinking, boiled or bottled water should also be used for ice making, brushing teeth, washing dishes, and preparing foods until the “boil water” order is lifted.

The advisory also notes that customers should only use food prepared prior to July 18th 2011 and to discard ice or food made after that date; ice makers should also be turned off and will require disinfection when the notice is lifted.

E. coli are a group of bacteria normally found in animal intestines and feces. Some strains are necessary for digestion; some are harmful, even deadly. Among those E. coli that may cause serious disease and death are a group called Verocytotoxigenic E. coli (VTEC), which are virulent and potentially deadly.

Finding E. coli bacteria and fecal coliforms in the water confirms that the water was recently contaminated with human or animal feces. It is the microbes in these wastes, not the actual water, that can lead to intestinal distress such as diarrhea, cramps, nausea, and headaches. These bacteria pose specific risks to the very young, the very old, and for those with compromised immune systems.

Bacterial contamination can occur when there is a break in the distribution system (pipes) or a failure in the water treatment process, the advisory continued.

WAWN Customer Service can be reached at 1.516.327.4100 or at 58 S. Tyson Avenue, Floral Park, New York 11001. The Nassau County Department of Health can be reached during business hours at 1.516.227.9692 or, after hours, at 1.516.742.6154.

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