I-Team: Hours passed before boil order made public
WARWICK, R.I. —
The NBC 10 I-Team learned at least five hours passed between a positive test for E. coli in a Kent County Water Authority storage tank and a public alert.
"There was no notification process," Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian said Monday.
Avedisian said he called the KCWA himself at about 5 p.m. Sunday, trying to get information for Warwick residents.
"I find it difficult to understand that it is now 11 o'clock Monday morning and I have yet to hear from Mr. (Tim) Brown, the CEO of the water authority," Avedisian said.
NBC 10 went to Brown directly to find out what happened and when.
"On that Sunday morning, this past Sunday, there was an indication (that) E. coli was present," Brown said.
Brown said that happened at about 9:30 a.m. and that he called the state Health Department immediately.
But NBC 10 and other media outlets weren't notified until much later Sunday afternoon.
"We wrote the notice, sent it to June Swallow, who's the director of drinking water quality. She approved it about 2:30 in the afternoon," Brown said.
But the first fax from the Kent County Water Authority came into the NBC 10 newsroom at 4:07 p.m. An email from the state Department of Health arrived at 7:59 p.m., more than 10 hours after the positive test.
Avedisian said he put the city's reverse calling system into action Sunday evening. He said the Kent County Water Authority never asked him to notify Warwick residents.
"We've kind of perfected a way of notifying people between hurricanes, floods and blizzards. Perhaps the KCWA needs to adapt that same kind of policy," the mayor said.
It is the first time in the history of the Kent County Water Authority that a test like this has come back positive.
The water authority doesn't have any kind of reverse calling system to reach customers, and it doesn't use social media like Facebook or Twitter.
"We don't have that reverse, robo-call, whatever they call it. We just don't have that," Brown said.
Brown said he depended on NBC 10 and other media outlets to spread the word.
However, many families who weren't home Sunday didn't find out until they got a call from the city of Warwick.
"It was great, because we probably would have just gone through our routine and used the water and whatever," said Bob Capuano, of Warwick.
Capuano and his wife, Debbie, have been boiling water for cooking and drinking ever since.
"There's some frustration due to the fact that it happened, but things do happen. We were grateful for the notification last evening. We got a telephone call today from the mayor," Debbie Capuano said.
Brown said the KCWA should have its own reverse-calling system, but he believes asking cities and towns to issue a phone alert wasn't necessary.
He told NBC 10 that in hindsight that he wouldn't have necessarily asked the mayors or city leaders to go ahead with the call.
"I think we need to have a review of what their process would be, how they would alert people in a crisis," he said.