E. coli test puts Haines on boil-water notice

Colorized scanning electron micrograph of Escherichia coli, grown in culture and adhered to a cover slip. (Creative Commons photo by National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)
Colorized scanning electron micrograph of Escherichia coli, grown in culture and adhered to a cover slip. (Creative Commons photo by National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)

Haines residents are being told to boil their drinking water after E. coli was found in the municipal water system.

Local officials issued the notice Wednesday after a routine test turned up the bacteria. A followup notice detailed response options.

Haines Borough Manager David Sosa says the contamination might come from a spring that feeds into the water system.

“There could be a septic system that’s leaking into it. There are a number of other options it could be. And we want to make sure we hit the right answer on this,” he says.

Sosa says the community’s main water source is a lake south of town. If tests show it’s clean, it can supply the whole community, without the spring-fed system.

“What we can do is cut off the water from that system, introduce more chlorine into the system, purge the entire system and then fill the system up. That would take time but that’s the safest and best action we can take for the community,” he says.

Residents are being told to boil their water for 2 minutes, which will kill off the bacteria. Some are also using bottled water.

E. coli can cause diarrhea, cramps and vomiting. Young children, older people and those with compromised immune systems can experience kidney failure.

Those getting water from other sources are not affected.

Borough Manager Sosa says informational fliers were posted around Haines and delivered door-to-door. He also informed the local clinic.

“I went over to [the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium] and I spoke with the administrator there and with the staff so I could advise them of the situation so they could be prepared to look for potential symptoms that might be associated with this,” he says.

Officials are unsure how long it will take to drop the boil-water notice. But it could easily last through the weekend.

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