December 4, 2021

Well tests positive for E. coli in C’ville

Official: Water used by residents for drinking, other uses remains safe

Water Faucet

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One of Cortlandville’s town wells, which serves 4,000 customers, is shut down after water tests showed E. coli present, but residents need not worry town and county officials said Monday.

Workers with Cortlandville’s water and sewer department found a positive result of E.coli during a routine raw water sampling of the Terrace Road well near town hall Oct. 3, said Mike Ryan, director of Cortland County environmental health.

“Raw water is what comes out of the ground before treatment,” Ryan said. “It is not unusual for a surface water to pick up E. coli in raw water, but it’s kind of unusual for ground water.”

Chlorine treatment, which seperates the raw water and distributed water, has kept the bacteria out of water used by town residents for drinking and other uses. “That (the barrier) is the automatic feed of chlorine,” Ryan said.

Still, the well was shut down immediately. No cause for the bacteria contamination has yet been identified. The well is surrounded by both residential and commercial development, but not farmland.

The water collected from the wells is transfered to a townwide distribution system, which carries the water to all customers, said Peter Alteri, water and sewer superintendent.

The town’s water and sewer department samples the wells weekly, Alteri said. Two days after the initial sample, five more were taken — one from the same well and the other four from the distribution system. The second raw water sample showed E.coli while the other four from the treated water did not.

Cortland Regional Medical Center was also monitored for gastro-intestinal distress cases. “We have monitored the surveillance continuously through the weekend just to make sure and there is no uptick in that kind of illness,” Ryan said.

No sanitary defects were found in the well, but it has been flushed and chlorinated. “It will be flushed and chlorinated again,” Ryan said.

Brian Congdon, a member of the water and sewer department, said 22 bacteria samples were taken throughout the entire distribution system — all came back clean.

As a precaution, the amount of chlorine within the distribution system was also increased.

“We are routinely checking chlorine samples and taking bacteria samples every month along with annual samples, which the state requires us to take to ensure our water is safe to drink,” Alteri said.

Residents do not need to boil their water or take other preventive measures.

E. coli, or escherichia coli, is a bacteria that normally lives in the intestines of healthy people and animals, according to Mayo Clinic. Most varieties of E. coli are harmless or cause relatively brief diarrhea, but a few particularly nasty strains can cause severe abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhea and vomiting.