E. coli Bacteria Found In Lake of the Woods Water System

  • (l-r) Gary Keifer of Lake of the Woods Mutual Water Company and Ron Fowler of Skoo'kum Water Monitoring Inc. perform a visual inspection of

    (l-r) Gary Keifer of Lake of the Woods Mutual Water Company and Ron Fowler of Skoo'kum Water Monitoring Inc. perform a visual inspection of "North Tank #3" on Thursday, May 3 after taking samples from Tank #1 and Tank #2.

E. coli Bacteria Found In Lake of the Woods Water System
Click to download Boil-Water Order.
Click to download Water Sample Lab Report.

PLEASE NOTE:  Read the following updates from the bottom, up.
MAY 10 THURSDAY, 11:00 a.m. UPDATE:
Frazier Park, CA — Gary Mell, consultant to the Lake of the Woods Mutual Water Company, confirmed today that the Lake of the Woods Mutual Water Company’s South Tank (referred to as Tank #1 in the California Department of Health Services’ report below) was drained Tuesday. A field mouse was found to be the source of the positive "total choliform" test May 2 and replicated May 3.

"A vent on the top of the tank had been welded, examination showed that the weld itself created a half-inch gap on the top," Mell explained, "It is a ‘bolted tank, so the mouse could climb up the bolts like a ladder, found his way through the space at the top, and fell in."

Workers had decided not to wait for diving specialists to come next week to examine the full tank. "We had a way to continue providing water to everybody without the South Tank, so we decided to drain it, to get this done sooner," Mell said. Meanwhile, LOWMWC is continuing its program of chlorintating the water and disinfecting the system.

The CDHS estimate that the ‘boi water’ order will be in place until Friday has not been changed.
MAY 8, TUESDAY, 4:00 p.m. UPDATE:

Frazier Park, CA — The following update was provided to The Mountain Enterprise by the California Department of Health Services today at 3:55 p.m.:

One out of the three routine samples collected on May 2, 2007 from the distribution system tested positive for E.coli bacteria.  Upon receipt of notification on 5/3/07, from Lake of the Woods Mutual Water Company’s sampler, the California Department of Health Services’ prepared a boil water order and directed the Water Company to issue the boil water order
As part of the repeat and investigation sampling, three samples taken on Thursday (5/3/07) (collected from Tank #1 and a Page Road residence) tested positive for E.coli bacteria.  The remaining nine samples (three wells, two other tanks towards the north part of the system, and four distribution system) collected on 5/3/07 tested negative for total coliform as well as E.coli.  After the California Department of Health Services (CDHS) notified the Water Company on Saturday (5/5/07), they started their emergency disinfection treatment and flushing in the distribution system.
Based on CDHS’ recent conversation with the Water Company’s certified distribution operator, they inspected the system facilities on Saturday (5/5/07) again to investigate the cause of contamination.  The E. coli contamination problem appears to be in Tank #1.  The Water Company is providing emergency disinfection treatment and also inspecting, cleaning, and disinfecting Tank #1.  Tank #1 is currently isolated from the distribution system. Two investigation samples collected on Monday (5/7/07) from Tank #1 and Paige Road Residence tested negative for total coliform bacteria. 
There needs to be two rounds of total coliform negative samples before canceling the boil water order.  After cleaning and disinfecting Tank #1, the Water Company plans to collect first round of samples on Wednesday (5/9/07) and the second round on Thursday (5/10/07).  At the earliest, CDHS will be in a position to cancel the boil water order on Friday (5/11) if all samples from 5/9/07 and 5/10/07 sampling are total negative for total coliform bacteria.

Patti Roberts
CDHS Office of Public Affairs

MAY 7, MONDAY, 12:45 p.m. UPDATE:
LOWMWC Performs Disinfection, E. coli Type Not Known

Frazier Park, CA — In a telephone update at 12:15 p.m. today, LOWMWC manager Diane Gustafson told The Mountain Enterprise that a test had already been run to determine the type of E. coli bacteria found in LOWMWC’s water system last week on May 2. Gustafson said she did not know the results of the identification test and referred The Mountain Enterprise to Steve White of Skoo’kum Water Monitoring Inc, LOWMWC’s contractor.

Steve White of Skoo’kum Water Monitoring Inc, told The Mountain Enterprise at 12:40 p.m. that no test to determine the type of E. coli bacteria had been performed and that such a test would not be performed because LOWMWC had already begun disinfecting its system. "Because we are now chlorinating and disinfecting the entire distribution system, we would not be able to identify the type of E. coli bacteria that was found…The entire system was flushed and disinfecting procedures were started
on Saturday…Today, we are continuing to sample for positive coliform bacteria and all tests so far are negative," White said. "Whatever strain of E. coli had been present, it is now gone," he added.

LOWMWC manager Diane Gustafson said, "Residents still need to boil their water."

MAY 5, SATURDAY, 11:05 a.m. UPDATE:
E. coli Bacteria "Not Fecal E.coli," Says Water Monitoring Company, But Laboratory Says That Is Not Correct

Frazier Park, CA — Ron Fowler of Skoo’kum Water Monitoring Inc., stated in a telephone interview at 11:00 a.m., that, "The laboratory has just confirmed that the E. coli bacteria found in the Thursday, May 3 test was not fecal E.coli, but was merely a "pathogen bug, which can be carried by wind."

Gary Hill of McRay Laboratory, said an hour later that Mr. Fowler’s statement was incorrect. "I spoke with Steve White of Skoo’kum this morning and Ron Fowler was there with Steve while we were on the phone," Hill said. "I told them that the samples [taken Thursday] were E. coli positive." Asked whether there are strains of E. coli bacteria which are not associated with fecal matter, Hill responded, "No…all E. coli is fecal. There must have been a miscommunication."

During Skoo’kum’s testing on Thursday, Fowler says they, "found the six inch diameter cap on top of the ‘North Tank’ was offset by about one half an inch, allowing air and particles to enter the tank. That could have allowed a pathogen to enter the tank," he said.  "We are now beginning to disinfect the system and should have that completed by Monday. On Monday afternoon we’ll do another round of testing and expect to have results back by Tuesday," Fowler said.

As of this report, it is unclear how the contamination occurred and it appears that Mr. Fowler had misunderstood the information he  received in the Saturday morning telephone conversation with the laboratory.

On Thursday, May 3 at a LOW Mutual Water Company board meeting, Steve White of Skoo’kum told the board and the public that routine monitoring run by the water company does not include an order to confirm the specific strain of E. coli when the bacteria is found. He said the samples taken on Thursday would be submitted with an order to "type" the strain of E. coli present.  He said the test costs $165 and is only run after an initial test reveals the presence of E. coli.

The public was told that test results would be returned within 48 hours. Diane Gustafson, secretary of the water company, said she would call The Mountain Enterprise with the results. No call was received on Friday. Attempts to call the water company mid-afternoon were met with an answering machine. On Saturday morning, Bob Stowell, president of the LOWMWC, said "Residents must continue to boil their water." No clarification was available as to whether results are available regarding the type of E. coli present. [updated Monday, May 7]

All Lake of the Woods residents are directed to continue boiling their water until notice is given that a clean test has been received and the boil-water order has been lifted.

MAY 5, SATURDAY, 8:45 a.m. UPDATE:
2nd Round of tests still show positive for E.coli Bacteria

Frazier Park, CA — A second round of tests for E.coli bacteria, taken Thursday afternoon just after 4:00 p.m., by Lake of the Woods Mutual Water Company, has shown positive at a testing station near the "South Tank," which is south of Frazier Mountain Park Road, according to LOWMWC Board President Bob Stowell. "Residents must continue to boil their water," Stowell told The Mountain Enterprise on Saturday morning at 8:45 a.m.

MAY 3, THURSDAY, 3:00p.m.:

Frazier Park, CA — E.coli bacteria was found during a regularly scheduled sample taken on Wednesday, May 2 at 1:15 p.m. in Lake of the Woods.

Sam White, spokesman for Skoo’kum Water Monitoring Inc., based in Tehachapi, told The Mountain Enteprise in an interview at the Lake of the Woods Mutual Water Company office that the routine sample was received at the laboratory in Bakersfield on Wednesday at 3:21 p.m. and the positive E.coli test results were reported to Skoo’kum Water Monitoring Inc. on Thursday morning at 7:15 a.m.  The Department of Health Services was notified of the results at 8:05 a.m.

Lake of the Woods Mutual Water Company and Skoo’kum Water Monitoring Inc. personnel began notifying residents immediately, delivering "Boil Water" notices to all homes on the water system.

Lake of the Woods Mutual Water Company representative Diane Gustafson said, "We’re moving as quickly as we can to notify everyone on the system. They need to boil any water to be used for drinking, brushing or dish washing. You can use the water for bathing," she said.

According to the notice, "E. coli bacteria are bacteria whose presence indicates that the water may be contaminated with human or animal wastes. Microbes in these wastes can cause diarrhea, cramps, nausea, headaches or other symptoms. They may pose a special health risk for infants, young children, some of the elderly and people with severely compromised immune systems."

"The symptoms above are not caused only by organisms in drinking water. If you experience any of these symptoms and they persist, you may want to seek medical advice. People at increased risk should seek advice about drinking water from their health care providers," the notice said.

According to Ron Fowler of Skoo’kum Water Monitoring Inc., "These samples today will be analyzed and we’ll have results tomorrow [Friday] afternoon. The State of California will then tell us exactly what we are to do."

[Results of tests done on Thursday, May 3, are now expected to be available on Saturday. Notices will be issued when testing reveals that the bacteria is no longer present.]

Check this website for updated information.

This is part of the May 04, 2007 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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