E. coli, the infamous bacteria that causes diarrhea and stomach cramps, were found in the drinking water supply of a city nestled in the foothills of Mount Shasta, officials announced Sunday.
The city of Mt. Shasta put out a notice warning residents to bring all water to a boil for a minute before drinking it, cooking with it, making ice, brushing teeth or washing dishes. City officials said in the notice they expect to resolve the problem in seven to 10 days, meaning the issue could continue through the Fourth of July, when the city hosts some of its most popular events.
The bacteria were found in a routine water sample on Friday, the notice said. Staff took four follow-up samples at various sites, including at the spring source of the water system. The notice said the spring sample tested positive for E. coli and the other three were clean.
The most common symptoms of E. coli infection are diarrhea, abdominal cramping and sometimes nausea and vomiting, according to the Mayo Clinic. It can cause a life-threatening kidney condition in children under the age of five, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems. Healthy adults can recover within a week without medication.
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Water-borne outbreaks of E. coli stem from human or animal waste entering the system. The city notice offers three potential sources for the contamination – heavy run-off from winter rains and melting snow pack, a break in the distribution system or a failure in the water treatment process.
Rod Bryan, Public Works Director for the city, said in an email that the cause is “Unknown at this time. The springs have been inspected yesterday and today. No obvious source of E. coli was observed.”
City officials said they would notify residents when water tests come back clean, but the drinking water system has been chlorinated as a precaution.
An artisan market and street fair is set for next weekend in the city. The streets are expected to fill with residents and tourists enjoying live entertainment on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday the Fourth.
On the morning of the Fourth, Mt. Shasta Mountain Runners will host the Fun Walk/Run, followed by the city’s Fourth of July parade and fireworks. On its website, the Mt. Shasta Chamber of Commerce calls it the city’s largest annual event.
Bryan said in an email anyone coming in to town should drink bottled water or boil the water before drinking it.
Beyond the holiday crowd, water from Mount Shasta is revered by people who run the gamut from simply preferring its taste to believing it has health-giving properties. Crystal Geyser has been fighting for years to open its own bottling plant to tap into the legend.
According to a 2014 article on Mt. Shasta News.com, people stream into Mount Shasta City Park to collect water from Big Springs, a spring designated as the headwaters of the Sacramento River. The water flowing out the headwaters comes from the snow-covered peaks of Mount Shasta, the park’s website says.
The city’s water primarily comes from Cold Springs at the top of McCloud Avenue, according to a video on the city’s website. The water is usually untreated when it exits residents’ faucets at “a crisp 41 degrees,” the video said. During the summer, the supply is sometimes supplemented from wells within the city.