Mabton city officials are working with the state to track down the source of bacterial contamination that was discovered Saturday in a water test at an elementary school in the Lower Valley city.
Residents received a notice ordering them to boil water before drinking or cooking with it Tuesday after a routine monthly water sample from the faculty lounge at Artz-Fox Elementary School showed the presence of E. coli. Mayor Mario Martinez said tests done at different places around the city as well as from the well that fed the teachers lounge failed to show the presence of the bacteria.
E. coli is a bacteria found in feces, and some strains can cause illness. Its presence may indicate that there is other contamination in the system, said Carolyn Cox, a spokeswoman with the state Department of Health’s Office of Drinking Water.
In a notice sent out Tuesday, residents were told not to drink the water without first boiling it or to use bottled water for drinking and cooking. Martinez said the order will remain in place until further notice. There are no reported illnesses, the Health Department said.\
Seven E. coli alerts issued this year statewide
The Mabton School District has shut off its water fountains and is providing students with bottled water, as well as placing hand sanitizer in bathrooms, according to the district’s Facebook page.
Martinez said it is the first time in his 10 years as an elected official that the city has had E. coli contamination in its water system.
Cox said there have been seven E. coli alerts issued this year statewide. Mabton’s is the third alert in Yakima County; the others were at White Pass and Silver Lake winery.
E. coli can cause diarrhea, cramps, nausea and headaches, but Cox said those symptoms could be caused by other things and that people should see a doctor if they suspect it may be from the water. The bacteria may pose a greater risk for infants, young children, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems, according to a state Health Department advisory. Symptoms typically appear within three or four days of ingestion.
Its presence may indicate that there is other contamination in the system.
Carolyn Cox, state Department of Health’s Office of Drinking Water
The water can be used for washing clothes or bathing as long as people do not ingest it, the advisory said. It can also be used to wash dishes either by using a sanitizing/heat cycle with commercial detergent in a dishwasher, or hand-washed if they are rinsed in a solution of one teaspoon of household bleach per gallon of water and then air dried.
Health Department inspectors are coming to the city Wednesday to search for the source of the contamination, which Cox said could be something as minor as a hole in a filter. Sometimes, she said, the bacteria source is not found.