E. coli forces boil-water order for thousands

The first tests since a boil-water order was issued to about 25,000customers of the Kent County Water Authority came back negative for E. coli onMonday.

Testing confirmed Sunday that a storage tank was contaminated with thebacteria. The tank was taken out of service and isolated from the rest of thesystem.

The Health Department said it expects the advisory to be in place for atleast four days. The advisory cannot be lifted until authorities have threeconsecutive days of water test results with acceptable standards.

The Health Department said customers of the Kent County Water Authority andfor Potowomut customers of the City of Warwick Water. The Health Department recommendswater being used for drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, cooking, or bathingof infants should be boiled for one minute and allowed to cool before using.

Customers in the Oaklawn section of Cranston and the Brookfield Plat sectionof West Warwick are not affected.

Divers went inside the tank Monday to try to find the source of thebacteria. The divers used special gear and equipment to prevent themselves fromcontaminating the water.

Loretta Verte lives right near the water tank in West Warwick. She'sstocking up on bottled water, but concerned.

"I have two big pots on the stove. I've boiled water, got bottledwater, I guess, like everybody else, have to be careful," she said."We didn't know anything about it. We've been drinking the water sinceFriday. I'm very concerned because we did drink the water."

Timothy Brown of the KCWA said Monday that testing of the water system atthe customer level, so far, since the E. coli was found in the tank has beenclean.

"Even though it may be contained and we may not find any evidence of itany place else, because there's a pipe hooked up to that tank, it's consideredcontaminated," he said.

Brown said it's the first time in more than 25 years has been an E. colicontamination in the drinking water supply.

The West Warwick School District covered up the water bubblers and broughtin supplies of bottled water on Monday.

"In our elementary schools we're not letting students wash their handswith water. We're giving them Purell as a precautionary measure," KennethTownsend of the West Warwick School District said.

A spokesman for Kent Hospital told NBC 10 all patients have been givenbottled water to drink and to use to brush their teeth. Ice is being suppliedby a vendor that is not a Kent County Water Authority customer, and allcontainers have been properly cleaned.

The Health Department said E. coli bacteria can cause diarrhea, cramps,nausea or headaches. Infants and others with weakened immune systems is at riskof increased risk of more severe symptoms. Anyone with symptoms should calltheir doctor.