This morning, Portland’s Water Bureau issued a city-wide boil notice. The problem? E. coli and signs of fecal matter have been detected in three separate tests of the water in two Mt. Tabor reservoirs over the past three days.
Portland currently supplies 935,000 customers in the metro area, and the reservoirs in question serve 670,000 individuals, making this a widespread issue calling for immediate action. While the Water Bureau released a statement claiming that the risk is “relatively small,” residents are encouraged to take the threat seriously and abide by the boil notice until the city can produce a clean water sample. No time frame for obtaining such a sample has been given.
What Does a Boil Notice Mean?
The press release asks citizens to boil all tap water used for drinking, preparing food and ice, and brushing teeth for at least one minute prior to using and to discard any unboiled tap water from May 20 or after.
While E. coli is naturally found in human and some animal intestines, some strains can cause severe food poisoning, particular in vulnerable populations like children and the elderly. According to the Water Bureau, the current E. coli contamination may cause diarrhea, so all residents should be on the lookout for symptoms of stomach upset.
What Else Can You Do?
To help you avoid contact with contaminated water, we encourage you to:
Purchase and use bottled water for all of your drinking, cooking, and tooth brushing.
Go the extra step and avoid bathing children in unboiled tap water, as they are more likely than adults to drink it while bathing.
Remember to stay hydrated! Boiling water will safely remove any problematic bacteria, so you need not avoid drinking H20 altogether (this can cause its own set of health problems). However, if you feel like imbibing this holiday weekend, local beer is an excellent choice, as all types of beer are naturally inhospitable to E.coli and other bacteria.
Consider canned goods: If you have a stash of legumes or canned tomatoes from last summer, now is a great time to break them out. Fresh food may come into contact with contaminated water, so items that have been preserved are a safe bet now.
Follow @PortlandWater on Twitter for more tips, including the following:
“#PDXBoil Clean contact lenses with contact lens solution. Wash hands w/ soap & H20 for 20 seconds & dry before putting in contact lenses.
#PDXBoil Tap water combined with dish soap can be used to clean dishes, utensils & cooking ware. Boiled water MUST BE USED for rinsing.”
While a boil notice in Portland on a holiday weekend is certainly not good news, you can make the best of it and avoid getting ill while the city works on clearing this precious resource for use. Have questions? Call us! We’d love to hear from you and are happy to help with any concerns you may have about the boil notice or any other water-or-plumbing-related issue.