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September 29, 2014 at 9:00 AM

Mercer Island says water clear of E. coli; source not found


Mayor Bruce Bassett announced that Mercer Island water is clear of E. coli on Monday morning. (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)

UPDATE, 11:30 a.m. | A  source for the E. Coli contamination could not be found after a thorough inspection of the city’s water system, Mercer Island and Public Health – Seattle & King County officials said.

Seattle Public Utilities, which operates the island’s water system has a team that collects water samples seven days a week, said Wylie Harper, SPU’s laboratory services director.

There are usually lapses or needed maintenance in systems in which E. coli is found, but none was discovered over the weekend, said Bob James, regional manager for the Washington State Department of Health’s drinking water program.

“There’s rarely a smoking gun in these contamination cases, but you can usually guess what may have happened,” James said. “There will be heightened surveillance of the system to make sure nothing like this happens again.”

City officials did not know how much money local businesses lost over the weekend due to closures and wasted food. All should be open by noon, they said.

Water is delivered to the island through a 16-inch pipe that runs from the Eastside over Mercer Slough and along the Interstate 90 bridge, but no signs of E. coli have been found in the utility’s water system outside of Mercer Island, SPU spokesman Andy Ryan said Friday.

“We are very confident that the E. coli originated on Mercer Island and is contained on Mercer Island,” he said Friday. “In other words, it can’t get back to the rest of our system.”

ORIGINAL POST | The City of Mercer Island on Monday said its water supply is clear of E. coli and authorities lifted a ban on the city’s water supply.

Bacteria was found in water samples collected from the island’s distribution system on Friday.

On Monday, city spokesman Ross Freeman issued a news release saying that the finding allows the city to lift the boil-water alert.

“We are gratified to bring this potentially serious incident to an end, and we thank all residents for their sacrifices and food-service establishments for their willingness to cooperate for the health of the community,” City Manager Noel Treat said in a news release.

Mercer Island schools were closed on Monday due to the water contamination. It’s unclear whether school will be back in session on Tuesday.

In a news release, city officials said that 11 samples revealed no presence of E. coli.

City officials advise residents to:

  • Flush pipes at home for five minutes by running the cold water tap in all faucets until it feels a lot colder. For homes with multiple levels, start at the top of the house.
  • If water is discolored, run it until it is clear.
  • Dispose of all ice from icemakers, make a new batch and discard it. Be sure to wash and sanitize ice trays after discarding that second batch.

Though most strains of the fecal bacteria are harmless, some strains can make humans sick. Residents scoured stores for bottled water on Saturday.



Comments | More in Environment, General news | Topics: E. coli, Mercer Island


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