Tumalo boil-water notice still in place after 6 days

Laidlaw Water District hopes to re-test soon

Boilwater notice issued for some...

TUMALO, Ore. - (Update: Boil-water notice still in place, new tests due soon; E. coli cause sought)

A six-day-old boil-water notice for about 130 Tumalo-area homes and businesses continued Thursday as officials continued to flush chlorine from the system for a new round of tests and to hunt for the source of the second E. coli contamination discovery in recent months.

Officials with the Oregon Association of Water Utilities, a nonprofit based in Independence, were in Tumalo Tuesday, trying to help the Laidlaw Water District figure out where the contamination was coming from. 

The association offers training and technical assistance and helps in high-priority situations such as this, said district Manager Dale Peer.

Peer had hoped to have the lines clear enough to pull new water samples later Wednesday, but that was pushed back to Thursday. The test takes 18 hours, he said, and the water district hopes to have the results by Saturday, but can't guarantee that.

Peer offered thanks to customers for their continued patience.

Test results finding E. coli bacteria in water samples prompted a boil-water notice a week ago, for the third time in less than nine months.

That included Tumalo Community School, where bottled water was brought in and students and staff were given hand sanitizer to use for cleaning their hands.

As far as businesses go, Seth Pena, owner of The Rogue Chef, said last Friday the boil-water notice has made doing business much more difficult.

"We’re throwing everything out, and we’re going to have to wait until we get that water to rewash everything, and then reboot and prep," Pena said. 

Over at the Tumalo Coffeehouse, owner Amanda Tyvoll said it's inconvenient. 

"I have to purchase ice, because now our ice machine has to be completely sanitized," she said. "Our tap water is no longer usable, so I have to go purchase bottled water so that we can wash our hands, so we can use water for drinking, so we can rinse things with. We can’t use anything from the tap.," 

Peer, the Laidlaw Water District manager, said it's not unusual for this to happen -- it's just unfortunate that it's happened twice in the past three months.

"We don’t know what the cause is, but we’re actively seeking the cause," Peer said. "Our system is closed, so it's very difficult to find out where it got in at. Maybe a bug or something flew in through a vent system or something.  It doesn't take much, but once it’s there, it’s quite a process to get rid of it." 

It's the third boil-water notice issued by the water district since early December. The first was due to a leak in its main line and the second, in mid-June, also was triggered by E. coli found in water samples.

But because of that, businesses like the Tumalo Coffeehouse know exactly what to do in this situation, 

"I think it comes with the territory of being a business owner," Tyvoll said. "All of us in the building have to follow the protocol, so we all know what to do. I think maybe there's a bigger problem we need to look at, but that’s not for me to say, that’s for them (the water district) to say, so hopefully we can get it fixed."

A water district official noted after the last incident that E. coli is a naturally occurring bacteria in soils. Only a couple of the 80 strains are harmful to your health, but the test does not differentiate between them.

For more information about your water, you can call the Laidlaw Water District at 541-408-7912, or call the Oregon Drinking Program: 971-673-0405.

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