DES MOINES — With the threat removed of E. coli bacteria, thousands of people in much of Des Moines and part of Normandy Park were able Wednesday night to return to their normal water-drinking lives.
A boil-water advisory imposed in King County Water District 54 last weekend was lifted late Wednesday afternoon. The news couldn’t come soon enough for downtown Des Moines, which has looked like a ghost town.
“Closed” signs have been posted on the front of 39 different restaurants since Saturday.
Routine tests discovered potentially harmful E. coli bacteria in the water, affecting 5,000 customers mostly in downtown Des Moines and a small portion of Normandy Park.
Des Moines’ Marina Inn was open Wednesday but barely.
“We are losing about 50% (of customers) right now,” said owner Shamsur Bhuiyan.
That’s 50 percent fewer people staying the night. The motel has more bottled water than customers.
“Basically, they cancel; a lot of people cancel. They change their plans of coming to Des Moines, to our hotel,” said Bhuiyan.
On top of the financial impact, there are health concerns.
“It’s scary, it’s scary,” said Howard Sparrs.
Des Moines Elementary was the only school in the area affected by the boil-water advisory. But the school did not stop classes.
“Being 5 or 6 years-old, if you are thirsty and you are in the bathroom, every kid has done it, they grab the water and drink the water,” said Angela Halliday-Moya.
The couple is concerned their 6-year-old had no supervision when she went to the bathroom.
“She was in school Monday, Tuesday and today; I didn’t realize, I thought they would be on top of that,” said Sparrs.
The Highline School District says many of the young kids were supervised and told to wash their hands with soap followed by a hand sanitizer. The district says they didn’t close school because health officials said it was not necessary.
“I am glad it’s over with,” said Sparrs.
Restaurant owners are, too. Thousands in lost revenue is hard to stomach.
“We do feel bad for the businesses and employees,” said Water District 54 Commissioner Vic Pennington.
The district cannot explain why the E. coli bacteria was picked up — only to disappear several days later with no trace of it in the system.
“Still a mystery; we are going to try to find what the source was,” said Pennington.
In the meantime, they are issuing insurance forms to all the affected businesses so that owners such as Shumar Bhuiyan can reclaim some of the lost money.
All the restaurants can reopen as soon as they flush out their water line and check off a number of requirements given to them by Public Health — Seattle & King County.
There are no reports of anyone getting sick from E. coli during this scare.