A Boil Water notice distributed by the City of Mt. Shasta on Sunday morning sent a jolt through the community as residents and businesses figured out new ways to do normal activities.
Two and a half days later the rough seas subsided when word went out early Tuesday afternoon that the State Water Resources Control Board had canceled the notice and stated the tap water was safe to drink.
The notice had been in effect since Sunday morning after a routine water sample from one of the city’s water sources tested positive for E. Coli bacteria.
But follow-up tests conducted by the state and city showed no signs of E. coli.
The all-clear signal was first given when the City activated the Code Red automated phone alert system to inform residents that the “City of Mount Shasta in conjunction with the State Water Resources Control Board, and the Siskiyou County Environmental Health Division, has determined that, through investigation of the springs and comprehensive testing of the water, your water is safe to drink. It is no longer necessary to boil your tap water or for you to consume bottled water.”
Mount Shasta Police Department Lieutenant Joe Restine, public information officer for the water incident, said they may never know what caused that one water sample to test positive for E. coli. A source of contamination was never found.
A lot happens in a short time when something as vital as tap water can no longer be taken for granted.
Many questions were raised, and the City soon posted a list of answers to the most common questions on its website: http://mtshastaca.gov/.
Among the answers: only those connected to the City of Mt. Shasta drinking water system were affected by the notice; the notice did not state that it was unsafe to use the water for bathing; Mt. Shasta Spring Water deliveries were not affected, because that comes from a separate water source.
Many were also concerned about how a tap water problem might affect the upcoming Fourth of July celebration that brings thousands of people to town.
Ray’s Food Place manager Dean Autry said there was a rush on bottled water Sunday and they sold out of 1 gallon and 2.5 gallon containers. By Monday things had calmed down and they had restocked their supplies.
Autry said they had to shut down the store’s soda fountain machine and the coffee machine that used city tap water.
Berryvale Cafe’s coordinator Katie Grandy said when the boil water order was posted, they stopped making drinks until they figured out how to get water and deal with the situation. She said they reopened, but preparing food and drinks took a little longer because they didn’t have the convenience of using tap water. They brought in water and bought ice as well as boiled water. She said they used their commercial dishwasher that heats and sanitizes for everything, even items they usually hand wash.
Black Bear Diner initially posted on its Facebook page that they voluntarily closed because of the water advisory, but re-opened a short while afterwards. They posted they were using bottled water for food preparation and purchased pre-washed bagged produce and bagged ice from an out-of-town source. Their dishes were cleaned with a chlorine detergent. They also posted they were serving a modified menu.
Mike and Tony’s Proprietor Gino Fiorucci posted a notice on the restaurant door stating they would remain closed until the water was safe to drink.
Mount Shasta Animal hospital said they brought in bottled water to use for the animals at the office and recommended people boil water or use bottled water for their animals.
Mercy Medical Center Director of Ancillary Services Joyce Zwanziger reported they did not see any cases of illness caused by contaminated water as of Monday morning. The hospital purchased all gallon containers of water that Grocery Outlet in Weed had available and received 500 gallons of water donated by Crystal Geyser Roxanne.
Grocery Outlet store owner Rodney Barr said they received a truck load of gallon water and 24 packs on Tuesday and were expecting another truck load by Friday.
Last week, one of the city’s routine monthly water samples showed the presence of Total Coliform which triggered a collection of four more water samples up and downstream from where the positive sample was taken. A sample was also collected from the Cold Springs water source which tested positive for E. coli (one part per 100 ml), according to Lieutenant Joe Restine.
The city learned of the contamination Saturday evening. They contacted the State Water Resources Control Board Division of Drinking Water, which instructed them to notify customers about the contamination within 24 hours.
Sunday morning the city put the Boil Water notice out using the Code Red alert system and social media and posting signs at various locations including the library and public restrooms. Hotels and restaurants were contacted too.
Restine said the city went above and beyond what was required. He said the notice on the MSPD Facebook page reached 40,000 people.
One of the common questions the City answered on its website was, “Why did it take two days for customers to be notified?”
“The sample that was positive for E. coli was collected and analyzed on Friday,” according to the City. “The results were given to the city on Saturday afternoon. City staff immediately contacted the State Water Resources Control Board and notified them of the results. City staff was directed at 6:00 pm on Saturday to issue the boil water notice. The city had 24 hours to do so. The notice went out Sunday morning, as soon as it was developed and approved, within the 24 hour timeframe.
Mount Shasta City Public Works director Rod Bryan said the State Water Resources Control Board Division of Drinking Water re-tested the Cold Springs water source on Sunday, and the samples were negative for E. coli.
Restine said the City also re-tested and those samples were negative too.
As a precautionary measure, the city treated the spring-fed water source tank with one low level dose of chlorine. The city does not routinely chlorinate the water, said Bryan.
The boil water order specified boiling water for one minute and letting it cool before using for drinking, brushing teeth, washing dishes and food preparation. Bottled water could also be used.
The order only affected residents within the city or people using city water. Lake Siskiyou campgrounds and those on well water or living in the county were not affected.
The City turned off the water to the downtown drinking fountain while the water advisory was in effect.
Bryan said the City reached out to motels for assistance because customers renting rooms did not have the ability to boil water.
He said this was the first positive E. coli sample in the 13 years he’s worked for the City.
For more information go to the city’s website at mtshastaca.gov or the Mt Shasta Police Department Facebook page. Or call city hall at 530-926-7510.
To receive notifications on your phone sign up for Code Red at https://public.coderedweb.com/cne/en-US/6F327CCDFFFD or through the link on the MSPD Facebook page