Residents Told to Boil Water
Coliform Bacteria Discovered in Windsor Water Supply
Windsor Diner co-owner Marq Taylor of Claremont lifts off the cover from a large pot of boiling water in the basement of the Windsor Diner in Windsor, Vt., on Sept. 17, 2013. Due to a boil water order in Windsor, Taylor and his staff cannot serve ice or fountain soda, and must boil water for washing dishes. Taylor says not having ice or soda turns some customers away, losing revenue for the diner.
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While water wasn't completely gone from the shelves at Price Chopper in Windsor, Vt., on the afternoon of Sept. 17, 2013, discount brand water was in low supply.
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Windsor — The town is telling residents to boil their drinking water after coliform bacteria was discovered in the water system during routine testing.
Town Manager Tom Marsh described the boil water order as “a very preliminary precaution” that affects 1,200 to 1,300 homes and businesses connected to the municipal water system. Windsor has added additional chlorine to the water supply while awaiting further testing.
“The coliform isn’t a concern but it may be indicative of something else being in the water,” Marsh said, adding that the runoff from recent rainstorms could be a factor. “It’s most likely related to an environmental impact. We’re doing other tests to pinpoint what the cause is.”
Coliform is a bacteria that comes from plants, animals and soil matter and can, in certain cases, cause gastrointestinal illness, but is not considered life threatening.
“You treat the symptoms,” said Paul Calandrella, chief operating officer of Mount Ascutney Hospital and Health Center, which is on Windsor’s waterline.
Per state protocol, the town must produce three negative test results on three consecutive days before the boil water order can be lifted, Marsh said. Each test takes one day to complete. The first one was conducted Monday.
If test results come back negative for coliform today and Wednesday, the order will be lifted on Thursday, Marsh said. At that time the chlorine supplement will be lowered to its normal level.
E.coli, bacteria associated with feces, was not detected in any of the water sample tests, Marsh said.
According to the initial order, people with compromised immune systems, including infants and elderly members of the community, may be at risk of illness if they consume contaminated water.
Coliform was initially found in the north end of town by the industrial park during a standard test that is done every three weeks by the Water Department, Marsh said.
Windsor Fire Chief Mark Kirko said the town began notifying residents of the boil order between 9 and 10 a.m. through radio, public access TV, newspapers, the town’s webpage and social media.
“It can happen to a private well, it can happen to a municipal system,” Kirko said. “The health hazard to the town is a minimum.”
Lynn Grace, an administrative assistant at the town hall, said that by 2:30 p.m. on Monday she had received about 20 calls from concerned residents.
Mount Ascutney Hospital has in place an emergency plan, which includes a provision on how to cope with any water shortage, Calandrella said.
“We’ll have water brought in from the outside,” Calandrella said. “We have arrangements at the ready for that.”
The hospital has an agreement with a company that will dispatch a tanker truck filled with water that will be connected to the hospital’s water supply line, Calandrella said.
The first delivery is expected by early today. The initial shipment should provide the hospital with a 2 to 3 day supply of water. It will be refilled as needed.
“The biggest concern is the consumption of water,” Calandrella said. As soon as the hospital was notified of the boil order it switched to using bottled water.
No surgeries were delayed due to the boil water order, Calandrella said — water doesn’t play a part in the hospital’s sterilization processes.
“It’s business as usual,” he said. “We’re prepared to operate in this mode for several days.”
Windsor restaurants, however, are particularly impacted by the boil water order.
Windsor Diner owner Theresa Taylor said the eatery will remain open while the boil water order remains in place.
Kitchen prep work for Monday’s meals was done on Sunday before the order was put in place.
The diner’s kitchen equipment includes eight-gallon pots that can be used to boil water, Taylor said.
“Our prep work for tomorrow will just be delayed a bit,” Taylor said. “We’re just going to serve bottled water and use boiled water for coffee.”
Beth Bedell, one of the owners of Vittle Stop BBQ, said town workers had dropped off information on the boil order. She had a hotplate set up to boil pots of water as needed.
“It’s not too bad,” Bedell said.
Bedell has two daughters enrolled in Windsor schools and a mother with health issues that makes her “worried about any infection that may happen.
“The bacteria is a little worrisome,” Bedell said.
Windsor’s municipal water is supplied by ground wells located on State Street. Water is pumped from the wells into tanks and then distributed to customers hooked up to the system.
Liz Sauchelli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3305.
This article has been amended for clarification. Coliform is a family of bacteria common in soils, plants and animals, and will not necessarily lead to an illness if found in a water system, according to the Vermont Department of Health. However, if a test result shows “total coliform” bacteria, the same sample is checked again to determine whether the coliform bacteria in the water came from feces. An earlier version of this story was unclear on that point in one instance.