Tumalo's boil-water notice lifted

County health officials give all-clear

Tumalo Laidlaw Water district under...

TUMALO, Ore. - (Update: Boil-water notice lifted after three days)

Tumalo's Laidlaw Water District lifted its boil-water advisory Saturday, ending the three-day advisory after Deschutes County health officials said a re-test of the system's water found it clear of potentially dangerous E. coli bacteria.

The 130 homes and businesses in the water district had been advised Wednesday to boil water or used bottle water or other sources due to E. coli found in water samples tested this week.

District Manager Dale Peer said Saturday afternoon the health department gave the OK to lift the notice after all tests were clean of all bacteria.

However, he said, "users should flush all faucets for 1-2 minutes to clear any chlorine that may be in any little-used lateral lines."

Peer called it "a precautionary measure Wednesday evening as he was out hand-delivering the notices to residents. Deschutes County Health Department officials stepped in to distribute the notices to stores, restaurants and other businesses, he said.

“We had one monthly, regular routine test, and one came back with a positive result” for E. coli, Peer said, noting that while we all have E. coli in our gut, a few of the 80 strains of the bacteria can cause serious intestinal illnesses.

The positive test meant they were required to do a retest — one upstream of the district’s water source, one downstream and one at the well, he said. One came back positive from Laidlaw’s reservoir and another from a test site, while results for two other test sites came back clean, as did the district’s well.

E. coli is “a naturally occurring bacteria in the soils,” Peer said. While only a couple of the 80 strains are harmful to your health, the test does not differentiate between them.

Officials also were trying to figure out how E. Coli got into the system. "We have no compromise in our reservoir, we have no compromise in our system, our well is clean, so we just have no idea where it came from." Peer said Thursday.

The positive test came back Tuesday, requiring the follow-up tests, which also include an 18-hour incubation period. So the word from county health officials came Wednesday afternoon.

“Within an hour, we had the system chlorinated and started passing out notices,” Peer said.

Businesses affected included the many food carts that dot the town of Tumalo.

Dave Armstead, the owner of 'Wrap it Up,' said Thursday he was frustrated by the notice.

"They told us we couldn't use water for prep, for cooking, for cleaning, until we get an all clear from the health department." he said. 

Scott Byers, owner of 'Ronin Sushi,' said it was an inconvenience, but not a show-stopper. "It threw a kink in the plans, but luckily we got it figured out now," he said.  

"Luckily I'm from Bend, so basically I just transported a ton of water down here, and we bought a bunch of water for hand-washing," Byers added. 

The boil-water advisory also meant some changes for the 385 students at Tumalo Community School, which used bottled water Thursday and brought in fresh food, said Redmond School District Public Information Officer Rainier Butler.

The water district official began flushing chlorine through the system Wednesday night, let it sit, then flushed it with clear water, since they can't retest with chlorine in the system.

Peer said it’s not the first such boil-water advisory in recent months — a water-line break during the winter’s heavy snow also led to such a precautionary notice, despite no positive bacteria tests at the time.

”We’ve got a lot of infants, elderly with compromised immune systems” on the system, Peer said, so they’d rather be cautious and issue the notices.

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