E. Coli Bacteria Detected in Reading, Mass. Drinking Water

The bacteria was detected on Thursday, Oct. 31, at a building located at 295 Salem Street

A boil water order was issued Saturday in Reading, Massachusetts, after the water department announced it had recently detected E. coli bacteria in drinking water.

The contaminated water sample came from a Cumberland Farms located at 295 Salem Street.

"As our customers, you have a right to know what happened and what we are doing to correct this situation," a news release from the town said. "On Thursday, officials collected routine samples at 10 locations throughout Reading."

After the sample tested positive for E. coli, follow-up sampling confirmed the presence of bacteria. The bacteria can make people sick, and are a concern for those with a weakened immune system.

The town will have a limited bottled water distribution until 4 p.m. Sunday at the Department of Public Works facility located at 75 New Crossing Road.

"There was a billboard, a lit up billboard, that said to boil your water, so here I am," said Denise Camerano, a Reading resident who took advantage of the distribution.

The Reading Public School System is prepared to open Monday morning with bottled water for the students and staff. 

Officials remind residents to not drink water without boiling it first, or to use bottle water. When choosing to boil the water, bring all water to a rolling boil and let it boil for at least one minute. You may cool the boiled water before using.

Boiled or bottled water should be used for drinking, making ice, food preparation, pets, brushing teeth and washing dishes until further notice from town officials. Boiling kills bacteria and other organisms in the water.

Residents should discard all ice, beverages, uncooked foods, and formula made with tap water collected on or after Oct. 31.

Town officials want to remind residents that showers are OK, but you should not get the water into your eyes or mouth. Dishwashers are not recommended for cleaning dishes unless your machine has a sanitizing function. Washing hands with soap is OK, and so is doing laundry with detergent.

For precautionary measures and by The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection regulation, Reading will maintain the boil order until at least Monday morning.

While residents aren't thrilled about the inconvenience, they seem to be taking it seriously.

"E. coli is a big thing; you can get very sick, so you have to go along with the precautions that are recommended," Camerano said.

Bacterial contamination can occur when increased run-off enters the drinking water source, for example, following heavy rains. It can also happen due to a break in the pipes or a failure in the water treatment process.

The MassDEP was notified of the positive results, and the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority and the Town of Reading is investigating what caused the E. coli positive samples.

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