E. Coli scare impacts city of Kamas

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Kamas, Utah reversed its boil order Monday, May 29 after multiple rounds of testing showed no traces of E. Coli bacteria.

Kamas issued the order on Saturday, May 27 after an isolated location in the city’s water supply tested positive for the bacteria. The entire community was tested and monitored throughout the boil order to identify the spread of the contamination, according to a statement released after the boil order was lifted.

“It was found that the contamination was contained and mitigated,” the release said.

E. Coli can be both good and bad. On May 27, water in Kamas, Utah tested positive for the bacteria. (Made in Canva by Joe Wirthlin with information from the CDC)

Escherichia Coli, commonly abbreviated to E. Coli, describes a group of rod-shaped bacteria that live inside the small intestines of warm-blooded mammals, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Although most strains of E. Coli are harmless, others can make you sick,” the website said. The strains of E. Coli that make people sick are known as pathogenic E. Coli, with six different variations of the illness-causing bacteria.

As found on the CDC website, symptoms of pathogenic E. Coli infection include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting. The bacteria usually takes anywhere from three to four days to manifest symptoms, which can last up to a week. Occasionally, symptoms can appear after only a single day of incubation.

The health department notified Kamas City Water that one of their samples tested positive for E. Coli on May 25. The city immediately took another sample of the water that day and another sample on May 26. Both additional samples came back positive, prompting the city to announce the boil order.

The city took corrective actions immediately. They chlorinated and flushed the water from the system, looked for cross-contamination from illegal secondary water hookups, increased sampling frequency and location across the city to determine the source of the contamination and worked with the Division of Drinking Water to complete a “Level 2 Assessment” of the water supply.

When Cynthia and Kendall Card woke up on May 27, they both reached for glasses of water. Minutes after finishing their drinks, an alert sounded on their phones, warning them to not drink any of the water.

“It was very shocking to all of a sudden say, ‘What? My water could make me sick?'” Cynthia Card said.

She was planning on going camping over the weekend and was looking forward to showering before she left. With the boil order in place, she was unable to shower safely.

“This was so annoying,” Cynthia Card said.

Kendall Card set up a water filtration device for his home. He would fill up the gravity filter with his shower head before letting it drain into a five gallon water cooler. (Photo courtesy of Kendall Card)

Kendall Card was less concerned when he saw the notification.

“Now we have to filter everything,” he said.

Kendall Card enjoys the outdoors and had three different water filtration devices in his home from camping and backpacking trips. He was able to set up a gravity-powered filter with a five-gallon bucket of water to ensure that he and his family would have safe drinking water.

Several of his friends in his local congregation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who lived outside the affected area offered to let him collect water from their homes during the boil order.

Kendall Card said he was “a little concerned” that the city did not announce that E. Coli had been found in the water right away. He said he would have appreciated a notice that the city had found something in the water on May 25, the day the E. Coli was found. Kendall Card said it made him think about how the city of Kamas normally handles communications during public emergencies and how the city would handle future problems.

Cynthia Card had a different reaction to the delay. She said it was “not ideal” for the delay to happen, but it was better than sending the city into a panic over a false positive.

She was concerned that the city did not explain how long they would need to wait for the all-clear. She assumed the city would be able to clear things up in just a few hours.

In order for the boil order to be lifted, two tests over the course of 48 hours both need to come back with negative results for E. Coli. If a test came back positive, the boil order would have been extended and additional tests would be run. The results came back negative, allowing the city to lift the boil order after only two days on May 29.

Kamas Mayor Matt McCormick said that the city normally tests water quality twice a month.

“The system in place for identifying issues in the water works,” McCormick said. “We’re able to identify issues quickly and for the best of our citizens. Our folks did a great job of taking care of the situation.”

The E. Coli was found, isolated and contained in less than a week, but the abruptness of the boil order made Kendall Card think about what would happen in the future. The Card family does not have much water storage, but there are water sources nearby their home. With their water filters, they were secure this time, but Kendall Card wants to prepare for the future.

“The water made me rethink being prepared and strategy for getting clean water,” Kendall Card said. “I need to rethink being particularly ready should anything like this or worse crop up in the future.”

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