Bottled water being distributed in E. coli scare

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DES MOINES, Wash. — Monday was day two under a boil-water order for some 5,000 utility customers in southwest King County.

Last week, E. coli bacterium was discovered in a test of the water supply.

water bottlesMost E. coli strains are harmless, but some can cause serious food poisoning in humans.

They’re still not certain where the E. coli came from, or even if it’s just a contaminated test sample or a dirty spigot.  But until they know for sure, they’re not taking any chances.

Meanwhile, the water district is piling up on bottled water and giving it away to customers. Some customers worry about getting sick.

Resident Ginny Kettunen learned about the boil-water advisory this weekend – and now worries about getting sick.

“When you get my age, you do worry about a few things,” said Kettunen. “I had a friend who had E. coli and she’s very, very concerned about it.”

The water district discovered the issue during routine testing – first they found coliform bacteria, and then E. coli in two separate tests. That’s what has the state Department of Health investigating.

The boil-water order is in effect for about a 1 square mile area – mostly in downtown Des Moines and parts of bordering Normandy Park.

The advisory shut down businesses like Wally’s Chowder House, and most of their employees aren’t earning any wages or tips.

“It’s just lost profit,” said manager Matt Wagner.  “A lot of people depend on this place to support their families and what-not to make a living.”

While local pipes are flushed with chlorine, Des Moines Elementary School stayed open Monday thanks to bottled water. Cold lunches were shipped in from nearby Mt. Rainier High School.

“We’re instructing them to wash their hands with soap and warm water and then to use hand sanitizer after that,” said spokesperson Tova Tupper. “That’s been a part of the Health Department instruction to us to put in these safety measures.”

The state says they’re testing new samples and those results could be ready Tuesday. But depending on what happens, the boil-water advisory could last into the middle of this week.

King County Water District #54 said bottled water continues to be available at the district’s offices at 922 S. 219th St., Des Moines.

The district serves customers in the core of Des Moines and the far south section of Normandy Park in an area from Puget Sound east to 13th Avenue South and Kent-Des Moines Road north to South 212th Street.

Customers and businesses can call the district’s offices at 206-878-7210 for additional information or check the city of Des Moines Web site at for information regarding the situation.




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