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The Today File

Your guide to the latest news from around the Northwest

October 8, 2014 at 12:22 PM

Boil-water alert ends; Mercer Islanders should take these sanitation steps

Mercer Island’s boil-water alert, in effect for most of the last week and a half, was just lifted.

The city made the announcement at noon Wednesday after city, county and state officials convened in the morning to come up with a timeline for getting Mercer Island back to normal after the E. coli contamination.

Restaurants that have been losing thousands of dollars while closed or serving restricted menus will be able to resume normal operations after speaking with inspectors from Public Health – Seattle & King County and following their directions.

The Mercer Island School District will continue serving food and water under special procedures until crews can make sure campuses are properly sanitized.

Water-system technicians have never found the source of the E. coli contamination that prompted the boil-water alerts that started Sept. 27, then ended, then restarted. But completing an investigation plan, seeing six days of clear test results and doubling chlorine content in the city’s water, which is supplied by Seattle Public Utilities, persuaded officials it was safe to lift the alert.

A City of Mercer Island release said the city will continue increased water sampling and keeping chlorine content in the water elevated. The city also plans to hire consultants to further review what may have caused the contamination and

Derek Pell, a water engineer for the Washington State Department of Health, said it’s rare to find the exact source of E. coli contamination in large water systems.

Public Health – Seattle & King County recommends that Mercer Island residents do the following to sanitize their homes before going back to consuming water normally:

• Flush pipes at home for 5 minutes by running the cold water tap on all faucets until it feels a lot colder; for a residence with multiple levels, start at the top of the house.

• If discolored, run water until it is clear; drink water from the cold faucet.

• Some residents may notice a chlorine smell – this is not harmful and indicates disinfected water has indeed reached the house. If left to stand in a pitcher, water will lose the smell. Chlorine levels are comparable to many other municipal systems.

• Follow manufacturer’s instructions for water filters and water softeners.

• Dispose of ice from automatic icemakers, make and discard three batches, then wash and sanitize trays.

• Run enough hot water to completely empty the water-heater tank; water will feel cool.

Comments | Topics: boil-water alert, E. coli, Mercer Island

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