Baltimore is the latest U.S. city to experience problems with its main water system after E. coli was found in the water supply.
Baltimore officials are encouraging residents to boil water used for drinking or cooking after the E. coli bacteria was detected in some of the samples.
The city Department of Public Works (DPW) released a series of tweets and then a news release on Monday, informing residents that the bacteria, which is often spread during contact with feces, had been found in the Sandtown-Winchester and Harlem Park neighborhoods.
Bottled water is being distributed this week at specific locations with a limit of three gallons per family.
E. coli contamination can cause intestinal distress, with symptoms that include stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting.
Illness caused by the bacteria usually is mild and clears up on its own, but in rare cases, a potentially life-threatening complication can result about a week following the initial infection, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A public works employee places a case of bottled water into a car in Baltimore after harmful levels of E. Coli bacteria were detected in the drinking water
Workers with the Baltimore City Department of Public Works distribute water to city residents at the Landsdowne Branch of the Baltimore County Library on September 6, 2022 in Baltimore
Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott said during a press conference on Monday that they received word of a possible positive test during routine testing conducted Friday.
‘We were notified of a possible positive test and immediately had the specimen retested for confirmation per emergency protocol,’ Scott said. ‘Once DPW received that confirmation, the public was notified.’
Water was sampled in various locations and a positive test result was found at the firehouse on Lafayette Avenue and two police facilities at North Mount Street and North Carey Street.
‘We are taking this issue very seriously,’ Scott added. ‘This is why we’re here with a full operation of our operation center.’
So far, the advisory affects about 1,500 residential and commercial facilities in the West Baltimore area, including some areas in neighboring Baltimore and Howard counties, the city said.
This map from the Baltimore City Department of Public Works shows the impacted area where E. coli was found in the Sandtown-Winchester and Harlem Park neighborhoods
Last month, Jackson, Mississippi, was forced to conserve their rations as officials begin to distribute cases of water bottles in a ‘massively complicated logistical task’
WHAT TO DO IF IN E.COLI AFFECTED AREA OF BALTIMORE
Residents and people in the affected area should boil water for one minute and let it cool before:
- Washing fruits and vegetables
Preparing baby food and formula
Giving to pets
Monitoring for symptoms
If you’re an adult, call your healthcare provider if:
You’re not able to keep liquids down for 24 hours
You’ve been vomiting or having diarrhea for more than two days
You’re vomiting blood
You’re dehydrated — signs of dehydration include excessive thirst, dry mouth, deep yellow urine or little or no urine, and severe weakness, dizziness or lightheadedness
You notice blood in your bowel movements
You have severe stomach pain
You have a fever above 104 F
For infants and children see your child’s health care provider right away if your child:
Has a fever of 102 F or higher
Seems tired or very irritable
Is in a lot of discomfort or pain
Has bloody diarrhea
‘As an extra precaution, DPW will be sampling and surveying the communities in the area of the facilities where the original sampling was performed,’ DPW wrote in a tweet on Monday.
‘Right now, the impact appears only at the facilities listed above, and they are being told to use water for flushing only.’
Residents living in the impacted areas are encouraged to boil their water for a minute before using it, noting that boiled and bottled water can be used to brush teeth, wash fruits and vegetables, feed pets, and prepare food.
Baltimore is the latest US city to be issued an advisory because of water system problems.
Parts of Detroit were under a boil water advisory after storms last week, and Jackson, Mississippi has been under an advisory since July after massive flooding.
At the end of last month, Jackson ran out of water, leaving 180,000 locals unable to drink from their taps, flush toilets, or shower.
The ailing OB Curtis water plant in Jackson was taken offline after it was overwhelmed by recent flooding, which destroyed backup systems put in place to relieve the elderly plant’s main treatment machinery.
The capital city that is home to 150,000 people and 30,000 surrounding communities was forced to conserve their rations as officials begin to distribute cases of water bottles in a ‘massively complicated logistical task.’
The City of Jackson had previously been on a boil-water advisory since July when the water quality began to plummet.
Residents of the city of Jackson were advised to boil their water for one minute before using it to cook, drink, make ice, brush teeth, or wash dishes, according to the Mississippi State Department of Health.
In a news conference on Monday, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said that the state will explore numerous long-term options in an effort to fix the city’s main water system, which has been a longtime problem.
It can take up to four months to repair the water plant.
Jackson has two water-treatment plants, and the larger one is near a reservoir that provides most of the city’s water supply. The reservoir also has a role in flood control.
The city has longstanding problems with its water system. A cold snap in 2021 left a significant number of people without running water after pipes froze. Similar problems happened again early this year, on a smaller scale.
Two years ago, torrential rain caused the river to reach 36.7 feet and Jackson homes in the hardest-hit neighborhoods were filled with dirty, snake-infested floodwaters.
Drinking water is delivered on the campus of Jackson State University after the city of Jackson, Mississippi, U.S., remains without reliable water infrastructure,September 2
In Benton Harbor, Michigan, toxic lead was found in the city’s drinking water which caused it to dip below the federal safety threshold of 15-parts-per-billion, according to MLive.com
Workers with the Baltimore City Department of Public Works distribute jugs of water to city residents at the Landsdowne Branch of the Baltimore County Library on September 6, 2022
Days of relentless rain in 2020 resulted in evacuation orders as the Pearl River reached its third-highest crest on record. The area hadn’t seen the river that high since 1983 – 37 years ago.
In New York City, arsenic-laced water was found last week at the Riis Houses in the East Village.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams was not happy that he wasn’t told sooner that the substance was found in drinking water.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams distributes water bottles at the New York City Housing Authority’s Jacob Riis Houses in Manhattan on Friday
New York City Mayor Eric Adams was not happy that he wasn’t told sooner that the substance was found in drinking water at NYCHA Jacob Riis Houses complex of apartments in the East Village neighborhood of New York
HOW TO PREVENT EXPOSURE TO E.COLI
WASH YOUR HANDS thoroughly after using the bathroom or changing diapers and before preparing or eating food.
WASH YOUR HANDS after contact with animals or their environments (at farms, petting zoos, fairs, even your own back yard).
COOK meats thoroughly. Ground beef and meat that has been needle-tenderized should be cooked to a temperature of at least 160°F. It’s best to use a thermometer, as color is not a very reliable indicator of ‘doneness.’
AVOID raw milk, unpasteurized dairy products, and unpasteurized juices (like fresh apple cider).
AVOID swallowing water when swimming or playing in lakes, ponds, streams, swimming pools and backyard ‘kiddie’ pools.
PREVENT cross contamination in food preparation areas by thoroughly washing hands, counters, cutting boards and utensils after they touch raw meat
The mayor told the New York Daily News: ‘I found out Friday. We’re doing a review to find out when the DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) was aware because there should have been a natural step of notification.’
The Democrat, who has struggled to keep his promise to lower crime in the city, now has to deal with high levels of a dangerous chemical in a housing complex where about 4,000 New Yorkers live.
Arsenic in the water can cause nausea, vomiting and dehydration and long-term exposure can lead to skin problems and even cancer, according to the CDC.
Residents at the Riis Houses have been told not to drink tap water, while city workers – including Adams on Friday – delivered free bottled water to residents.
A spokesman for Adams said that ‘more precise’ tests on the water at the complex have shown no increased levels of arsenic in the water.
Lutvak added: ‘While these results are promising, the health and safety of New Yorkers are our top priorities, which is why the mayor has ordered additional testing to be conducted to be absolutely certain the water is safe to drink. We are now waiting on test results for more than 100 additional delivery points.’
It appears that the whole ordeal has been a communication breakdown, as The City reported that NYCHA officials took two weeks to tell people the arsenic had been discovered, a charge they disputed.
In Benton Harbor, Michigan, toxic lead was found in the city’s drinking water which caused it to dip below the federal safety threshold of 15-parts-per-billion, according to MLive.com.
The decline in lead levels is attributed to efforts to optimize anti-corrosion treatment at the city’s drinking water plant, state officials said.
‘This is positive news and an indication that Benton Harbor’s drinking water system is remaining stable while the city accelerates this critical infrastructure work,’ Eric Oswald, director of EGLE’s drinking water division, said.
‘Having said that, today’s news does not lessen the urgency around our continuing efforts to assist the city in aggressively reducing lead exposure – through lead service line replacement and corrosion control treatment,’ Oswald added.
For months, the state has sent bottled water to residents and will continue to do so until all the city’s lead pipes are replaced, something expected to be done by April 2023.