Mineral Point Remains Under Boil Water Advisory

Tests Indicated E. Coli In City's Water Supply

Published On: Oct 20 2011 06:13:24 AM CDT   Updated On: Oct 20 2011 10:06:39 AM CDT
MINERAL POINT, Wis. -

Mineral Point remains under a boil/bottle water advisory because of concerns about E. coli in the city's water supply.

The city said the bacteria found in the Mineral Point Waterworks water can make people sick and is a particular concern for people with weakened immune systems.

"I've been here 32 years, and we've never had it happen," Water and Sewer Superintendent Pat O'Flahrity said. "It's very rare in the state, but it pops up one or two places a year."

After two positive E. coli test results this month, the city ordered a boil advisory for all residents.

That means, for the time being, no city water should be consumed without boiling it first -- for at least one minute at a roiling boil.

The city is also urging residents to throw away any ice or food prepared with water. It's also encouraging the use of bottled water and hand sanitizer.

"I think there are a lot of very concerned citizens out there," City Council President Tom Schmit said. "It kind of hits you in waves when you think about it, when you go about your daily life -- making coffee in the morning and all that kind of stuff."

At schools, district leaders had to scramble to come up with a game plan. Water fountains are off limits to everyone, and bottled water has been made available to students who want it. All food prep is also being done with bottled or boiled water.

City leaders said they working hard to keep inconvenience to a minimum. They said chlorination is under way and water main flushing is complete. Officials said they hope in a few days, when more test results come back, they'll have the all clear.

"If they both come back safe, the boil water order should be able to be lifted Saturday morning," O'Flahrity said.

City leaders said they have no idea how the bacteria may have gotten into the city's water supply. They said the supply has not been disrupted and there has been no work on the system recently.

The city said it's hoping the test results that come back will indicate that the previous tests were inaccurate, and it was just an error.

There have been three new cases of E. coli in nearby Green County this month, but state Department of Health Services spokeswoman Beth Kaplan said "it's safe to say that these two situations -- the water supply in Mineral Point and the E. coli cases in Green County -- are not connected."

"It is extremely, extremely rare for something like the 0157:H7 E coli strain, which is connected with the cases in Green County, to be found in the water supply," Kaplan said. "The 0157:H7 strain is transferred via person to person contact or in food."