By Max Bowen and Adam Bass
A boil water notice is now in effect and until further notice, following the discovery of E. coli in the town’s water.
According to an announcement issued on Wednesday, Sept. 22, the E. coli was discovered during routing water sample collections done on Sept. 21 at 9 p.m. The E. coli was detected in the raw part of the water system and treatment facility that the Town of North Attleborough shares with the Town of Plainville. Immediately after identifying the positive samples, officials spoke with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
The cause of the contamination remains unknown at this time. Earlier today, the schools announced that water fountains would be shut off and safety precautions taken in the kitchens. Students should bring in bottled water if possible, though the district is working to secure its own supply.
“The boil water notice remains in effect town-wide for all those who use public water, and will continue until further notice,” the announcement read. “All water used for cooking, drinking, brushing teeth, washing dishes or food preparation should be boiled for at least one minute prior to use, or bottled water should be used as an alternative.”
After speaking with North Attleborough officials, the Town of Plainville has also issued a boil water advisory.
A press conference was held on Wednesday, where officials outlined the contamination and steps that residents can take. Health Director Anne Marie Fleming said that the elderly and infants are most at risk, but should be all right so long as they are vigilant and do not drink the water.
“We are ahead of the DEP’s timeline,” said Town Manager Michael Borg. “We’re ahead of the curb.”
To ensure residents have safe drinking water, the town will distribute water at the Department of Public Works Garage, 240 Smith St., beginning at 3 p.m. today. The towns will collect additional water samples. Residents will be notified when the boil water notice ends.
The Town of Mansfield was recently under a brief boil water order after E. coli bacteria was discovered. That order was lifted following three consecutive tests for the bacteria which came back negative and confirmed by the Mass Department of Environmental Protection.
The statement recommends that any ice, beverages, formula or uncooked foods that were prepared with water from the public water system on or after Sept. 21 should be discarded.
The same precautions to protect humans also apply to pets. Pets should be given bottled water or boiled water that has cooled. Water from any appliance connected to the water line, such as ice and water from a refrigerator, should not be used for pets. Fish or other aquatic pets should not be exposed to water containing elevated bacteria levels, and appropriately boiled or bottled water should be used instead.
E. coli is a sub-group of the fecal coliform bacteria group. There are many strains of E. coli, most of which are harmless, but some strains can cause illness. Symptoms of E. coli sickness can include diarrhea, cramps, nausea, headaches or other symptoms. These symptoms may pose a greater health risk for infants, young children, the elderly, and people with severely compromised immune systems. These symptoms, however, are not just associated with water-borne illness; they may also come from other diseases. If you are ill with these symptoms, please contact your healthcare provider.
Residents with additional questions can contact the North Attleboro Department of Public Works at 508-695-7790.