April 15 2021
10:36 AM
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"Boil water", says Portland officials; E coli found in westside reservoir
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Story by by Larry Fitzpatrick - The Oregon Herald Oregon
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Portland’s Water Bureau has officially warned customers on the west side of the Willamette River to boil their drinking water because too avoid possible E. coli contamination which was discovered last week in a Washington Park reservoir.The boil-water warning affects about 50,000 Portland water customers in the Valley View, Burlington and Palatine Hill water districts and customers of the Portland Water Bureau. Bureau officials sent notices to the water district customers late last week. Those using water well probably do not need to boil their water.

All tap water in the districts and other parts of the region receiving water from the reservoir used for drinking, food preparation and ice should be boiled for at least a minute. Ice or any beverages prepared with unboiled tap water should be discarded.

Water bureau officials hope to have the situation cleared up within a day or two. Although the specific strain of E. coli is not known, generally the worst strains that are associated by the public with serious illness are not those found in water supplies. “If there are health effects from drinking water contamination, we expect them to be diarrhea and belly ache,” said Dr. Paul Lewis, deputy health officer for Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties.

Lewis noted that the E. coli bacteria detected at the reservoir might not be the same as the notorious E. coli O157:H7, a cause of serious bacterial diarrhea.According to bureau director David Shaff, state drinking water regulations require that if a water sample tests positive for E. coli, a second sample must test positive before a boil-water alert is issued.

Shaff says that 14 water samples have tested positive for E. coli since 1990, but that all of the follow up samples tested negative.

"This is the first time [a second positive sample] has ever happened," Shaff says.

The first sample that tested positive was taken from the reservoir on Wednesday, Shaff says. The test takes approximately 24 hours to complete and the results came back late Thursday. The bureau then took a second sample. It came back positive on Saturday, triggering the boil-water alert, Shaff says.

The reservoir is being drained, a process that can take up to four days. In the meantime, westside water customers are receiving their water from other city reservoirs that have not tested positive from E. coli.

"The water system has a lot of redundancies," Shaff says.

Samples from the westside distribution system are being tested and the results will be announced Sunday afternoon. Customers are urged to continue boiling their water until then, Shaff says. If the results are negative, the alert will be lifted. The Washington Park reservoir will not be reconnected to the system until it tests negative for E. col.