UPDATED: Sept. 6 at 4 p.m.
The boil water order issued in Windsor is expected to last until at least Saturday afternoon, Sept. 7, as the Windsor Water Utility completes testing to ensure an E. coli contamination is cleared from the public water supply.
The Town of Windsor has asked that the order be called off by Saturday afternoon if all goes as anticipated and no E. coli is found in the samples collected Sept. 6. An update on the Town of Windsor’s website says all water samples analyzed since the order was implemented Sept. 4 have tested negative.
Don Beatty, director of Public Works for the Town of Windsor, says the E. coli contamination was detected Sept. 4 at 3 p.m. at one of four locations where water testing is conducted weekly within the town.
“This problem has been isolated to Cole Drive but, unfortunately, when you go on a boil order it applies to the entire system just as a precaution,” he said in a phone interview.
The other test sites, located at the water plant, Cottage Street and Water Street, “have repeatedly tested negative for any problems,” Beatty added.
The cause of the contamination has yet to be determined.
A release on the Town of Windsor’s website lists potential causes as “contamination during a water main break, contamination of a sample bottle during collection or contamination of the sample during testing.”
It takes two consecutive clear tests for the boil order to be lifted by Nova Scotia Environment, and 24 hours to receive the results for each sample, Beatty said.
In addition to conducting frequent sample testing, Beatty says the water utility added more chlorine to the treatment system to “kill off anything that might be remaining.”
The boil order instructs Windsor Water Utility users to boil water for two minutes before “drinking, making ice cubes, washing foods, brushing teeth or any other activity requiring human consumption.”
Beatty says updates will be posted to the Town of Windsor website as new information becomes available and the town will advertise when the order is lifted.
“In the 20 years that I’ve been here in this position we’ve never had a boil order and never had a positive test for E. coli,” he noted.
Beatty says staff are working diligently to resolve the issue.
“We’re doing all we can to put the problem to rest.”
Dr. Richard Gould, a medical officer of health with the Capital District Health Authority, says it is important for people to know the E. coli detected in the water system is not the harmful E. coli 0157 strain.
“This is just common garden variety E. coli that’s carried in the intestines of all mammals, including humans, and it shows the potential that there could be fecal contamination in the water,” Gould said.
“That will not cause any illness whatsoever. It’s only if disease causing agents like salmonella… or the real E. coli 0157 happen to be in the water from a serious contamination issue.”
He said he believes the boil order issued for the Windsor Water Utility was more of a precautionary call than anything else.
Still, he said it is important for the public to follow the directions spelled out in the boil order at home and in the workplace until the advisory is lifted.
“(Restaurants) should be serving boiled water or an alternate source of water… and they should be using boiled or an alternate source of water for washing vegetables… that are going to be consumed uncooked.”
Gould says hand washing is fine as long as soap is used and it is safe to bathe in the water, but extra attention should be paid to ensure children are not swallowing too much water while doing so.
The Public Health Agency of Canada’s website lists severe stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting and fever as symptoms of an illness caused by a harmful strain of E. coli. The site says the infection typically lasts for a week or less for adults and up to three weeks for some children, but most people make a full recovery within seven to 10 days.
For additional information about E. coli, visit www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/fs-sa/fs-fi/ecoli-eng.php.