Portland’s water system took another blow Friday when 670,000 people in the area were informed they should boil their water because the system was contaminated by E. coli bacteria. The city found the bacteria after routine inspections were performed at two of the city’s Mt. Tabor reservoirs; three tests confirmed there was indeed E. coli in the water.
E. coli is usually a result of contact with animal or human fecal matter.
Residents will have to boil their water until Saturday, at which point results from further tests will either mean boiling should continue or it can be halted. Portland Water Bureau Administrator David Shaff released a statement saying, “While we believe at this time that the potential health risk is relatively small, we take any contamination seriously and are taking every precaution to protect public health.” He told reporters, “Our history is that this is usually a one-day, transient event. I have every expectation that we will declare an all-clear tomorrow.”
City officials instructed residents to bring their water to a full, roiling boil for one minute or more. They also said they intend to investigate how the problem originated.
Portland’s water system was affected last month when city officials emptied a reservoir because there were rumors a teenager had urinated in it. It was the second time in the last three years that the city had emptied a reservoir for that reason. Tests later showed the 38 million gallons of water were safe, but the water was still transferred to another reservoir to be used in an experiment in examining the shelf-life of water.
In last month’s incident, Dallas Swonger, 19, was videotaped appearing to urinate into the reservoir. He later claimed to KATU-TV he had only urinated against a wall.