Article courtesy of Aliyah Mohammed | November 1, 2014 | San Jose Mercury News | Shared as educational material
San Jose Water Co. lifted a “boil water” notice Sunday to 300 homes in Berryessa, following water samples that showed the presence of E. coli and total coliform. The order was issued Oct.17 — two days after the supply tested positive for E. coli.
The State Water Resources Control, Division of Drinking Water was notified and coordinated the mandatory notices to the residences and the elementary school campus of Milpitas Christian School on Birchwood Drive.
No Milpitas water customers were affected, since they rely on different sources. Three customers in Berryessa were sickened.
San Jose Water Co. was installing a new water pipeline on Piedmont Road that connects to Sydney Drive and Sydney Court, where the bacteria was found, said John Tang, spokesperson for the San Jose Water Co.
The water company does standard sampling procedures for new water mains, and this was how the bacteria was found only in the water main supporting Sydney Drive and Sydney Court, Tang said. However, out of an “abundance of caution,” residences on Lisbon Drive, Lisbon Court, Madrid Drive, Madrid Court and Rowley Drive were also included under the boil water notice. Milpitas Christian School as well as a resident on Stonewood Lane with critical health needs were also notified per Department of Public Health regulations.
Residents were told the water was still safe for regular household uses such as showering and washing clothes, however they were advised to boil it for cooking and drinking purposes.
Immediately after the contamination was identified staff from the water company knocked on doors of the residences in the identified area and left door hanger with daily updates on the situation, provided bottled water and set up a 24-hour water distribution location at Fire Station 19 on Sierra Road while the water main was flushed out and tested over the course of the week.
The water company collected 180 samples to confirm the absence of the bacteria after the main was flushed out.
“I couldn’t tell you exactly what happened in this case, we will still be looking at it again. In past cases, there are not many cases where this has happened … and there have only been two in the last 10 years I have been here … past experiences show that an animal might have gotten into the pipe and didn’t get out or defecated in it and that is when you would see E. coli in the water,” Tang said.
Robyn Ritsema, principal of the Milpitas Christian School campus in Berryessa, said the school was notified last Sunday of the situation. The water company brought a pallet of drinking water for the school daily. She said it only affected the drinking water on campus as well as the cooking, which had to be done offsite by the food vendor last week instead of in the cafeteria.
The campus, which has 340 students and 60 staff, was largely unaffected by the water problem, Ritsema said.
Tang said the company was thankful for the residents’ patience and positive responses to the company’s actions.
—… their response to our response was very overwhelmingly positive and we appreciate that.”