Faced with three samples that the Environmental Protection Division says contained bacterial contamination, the Commerce Water System has issued a “boil water advisory” until further notice.
The city received notice late Wednesday night that three of the four routine water samples taken Monday at a location across from the hospital, near Southeast Toyota, at Double Oaks Golf Course and downtown were positive for E. coli bacteria. The samples came from two different water tanks and were miles apart.
For its part, the city thinks that the issue was a sampling error or contamination of the EPD-provided sample jars. It sent 17 fresh samples to the lab Thursday, with results expected back Friday afternoon that, if clear, would end the boil advisory.
“We’ve got to go to the extreme, regardless of what our professional opinion is, in regard to public health and public safety,” noted Clay Sikes owner of ESG Operations, which operates the water plant. Sikes added that in his experience, such anomalies have always been linked to a sampling or laboratory test error.
“It’s very frustrating,” he said. “A logical person would presume it was probably a lab or sampling error, but dealing with public health and safety, we take no chances.”
City manager Pete Pyrzenski said the city checked with the hospital, nursing home and the Toyota clinic and found no GI that might be linked to the water.
“That really tells us this is a lab mistake,” Pyrzenski insisted. He termed the contamination alleged by the EPD to be “virtually impossible.”
Just the same, city officials began delivering pallets of bottled water to the hospital and the schools. The city put the boil notice on its website and on Facebook, referring calls to the water plant, although by 4:00 Thursday afternoon, so many calls were pouring into City Hall that two ESG staffers went to City Hall to man the phones.
The boil water notice follows:
In order to protect the public from a potential health hazard, all customers of the Commerce Water Treatment System are advised to “boil” all water prior to use for drinking, cooking, or preparing baby food. The water should be boiled for at least one minute after reaching a rolling boil. Citizens should continue to boil their water until they are notified by their drinking water utility that the water system has been restored to full operation, and that the microbiological quality of the water in the distribution system is safe for human consumption. The cause of this advisory is possible microbiological contamination.
What is being done?
A thorough review of the water treatment system data lead up to, during and after the Monday August 18th, 2014 sampling event including water disinfectant levels validate all water leaving the City of Commerce WTP was fully compliant with all aspects of EPA’s Clean Water Act and the State of Georgia’s Safe Drinking Water Rules. However, as a precaution your water system has conducted repeat water sampling as well as system flushing for your safety and no system abnormalities were discovered. We will inform you when tests show no bacteria and you no longer need to boil your water.
For more information, please contact the City of Commerce Water Plant at 706-423-5150 for more information, P.O. Box 348, Commerce, GA 30529. General guidelines on ways to lessen the risk of infection by microbes are available from the EPA Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791.