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Public never in any danger after city well water tests positive for E. coli

For the first time in almost 40 years - based upon a city staff member’s recollection - a municipal water well tested positive for the presence of E. coli.

The bacteria, known as Escherichia coli (E. coli), was found in a water well June 5, according to a notice from the city.

City workers closed off Water Well #7, located about four miles outside of town on Ave. K, after a test showed the presence of E. coli. They spent the weekend chlorinating the well and flushing it out.

“The well is off line. It’s not providing any water. We turned it off as it (the testing results) came in,” said City Manger Joe Hines.

Another test on the water was sent to a lab. The results won’t be available until possibly Wednesday morning.

“We do regular testing. We found this before there was a problem,” said Hines.

The public was never in any danger of ingesting the bacteria since it never entered into the drinking water. City officials routinely test the water supply.

“Nobody’s going to get sick. The water was turned off. The water didn’t go into the system,” Hines said.

The city’s water supply goes through several tanks before it enters the distribution lines. Water from Well #7 is pumped into a big tank before it is pumped again into another tank within the city limits. It then makes its way into the distribution system to the public.

The city acquires a majority of its water supply from Lake Meredith, a man-made lake.

Officials don’t know how the bacteria entered the well water. Hines speculated the possibility that the city’s sample may have been contaminated while at the lab. The lab conducts both water and wastewater tests.

People ingest the bacteria from food or water contaminated by human or animal fecal material.

Microbes in contaminated fecal material can result in short-term health effects like diarrhea, cramping, nausea and vomiting and headaches.

The bacteria can pose special health risks for infants, young children, the elderly and those with severe compromised immune systems.

The bacteria is found living in the intestines of healthy people and animals. Most types of E. coli are harmless, causing brief diarrhea. But other strains, such as E. coli O157:H7, can result in severe stomach cramps, bloody diarrhea and vomiting, according to an online article.

Healthy adults can usually bounce back within a week after ingesting E. coli O157:H7 contaminated food or water. Young children and older adults may have a harder time to recover. They are most at risk of developing life-threatening forms of kidney failure, according to the online article.

Lamesa Press-Reporter

P.O. Box 710
Lamesa, TX 79331