Kamas announced an immediate order to boil all water before drinking it or using it to brush teeth, wash dishes, or prepare food. Boiling the water will kill the bacteria and any other organisms in the water making it safe to use.
On May 25, the health department notified Kamas City Water of a sample of water that came back positive for E. coli. The city took additional samples which came back positive for E. coli and Total Coliform.
The city began distributing the boil order on May 26 and is asking for help informing those who may not have received the notification, such as businesses and schools or people in apartments and nursing homes.
E. coli is an indication the water may be contaminated by human or animal waste. While the city is still investigating the cause of the contamination, it said contamination can occur due to homeowners connecting illegal secondary irrigation to the drinking water line, a failure in the water treatment process, or a break in the pipes.
City officials say they are addressing the issue by chlorinating and flushing the water system, looking for possible cross-connection issues from illegal secondary water hookups, and increasing the samples taken. The city will notify residents when the water is to drink again.
E. coli contamination can cause diarrhea, stomach cramping, or vomiting, according to the Mayo Clinic. While most healthy adults recover within a week, the organization says young children and older adults may be at risk of a form of kidney failure.
Total coliforms are a group of bacteria that may or may not be harmful, however, it is a helpful indicator of other pathogens in drinking water, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.