Missouri City Faces E. Coli Scare in Water System

For one small Missouri city, chlorine has become a bigger problem than they ever could have imagined.

According to The Missourian, it all started when the Missouri Department of Natural Resources found traces of the e. coli bacteria in the water supply of Washington, MO. The city immediately installed chlorine injection pumps at all nine city wells.

Upon installing these chlorine pumps, residents began noticing that their water tasted a little “off,” and the city began exploring ways to balance the chlorine levels in their new pumps.

“We’re trying to tweak the system to minimize the chlorine taste in the water,” City Administrator Jim Briggs told council members Monday night.

The chlorine levels in the water system need to be exactly right to protect the health of Washington citizens, and for reasons more important than taste. When heated, chlorine releases a vapor that can lead to serious health effects, including breathing problems, headaches, and even cancer.

While attempting to rectify the situation, the city issued a “boil water order” for all homes and businesses. Some locals did not get this memo, wasting money on bottled water to last them until the problem was fixed.

Many residents are asking for reimbursement from the city for this bottled water, having been unaware of the “boil water order” and finding it a poor and unrealistic solution to the chlorine problem, especially in the long-run.

The Missourian also reported that the Washington Board of Public Works urged the city council to appeal the mandated chlorination of their water system until they conducted an independent review of the water supply.

Board President Kurt Voss is urging the city to fix the problem as soon as possible.

“I think it’s awful,” he said. “It’s like I walk into a swimming pool every morning. You might as well just dump chlorine on me.”

The city council unanimously voted against an appeal, with Briggs noting that it was “very unlikely” they would win in a circuit court.

If there is a silver lining, Briggs says there have only been 38 reports of a chlorine taste or odor in the water and 59 reports of rusty water in homes.

“Actually I thought we would’ve had more than that,” Briggs told the council.

Nobody is reported to have contracted E. coli and the city feels lucky they noticed the problem as early as they did.

Hopefully, Washington, MO can find that perfect balance between clean water and “walking into a swimming pool every morning.”

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