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5:10 PM Sat, Nov. 17th

Peach Springs weathers E. coli water scare

PEACH SPRINGS - An E. coli scare has ended for Peach Springs residents.

Hualapai Tribal Public Works Director Erin Forrest said a routine test for bacteria in the Peach Springs water system taken on Nov. 9 returned a positive result for E. coli.

A second test of the water system taken on Nov. 10 showed no E. coli, but the presence of three other types of harmless bacteria was found in the sample, Forrest said. Because of the one positive sample and the three other types of bacteria found in the system, the Environmental Protection Agency required the tribe to put a boil water notice into effect and flush the entire system with chlorine. Chlorine kills most bacteria. The boil water notice for the Peach Springs area was put in place on Nov. 12 and lifted on Wednesday.

The schools and detention center were closed. The clinic was closed to all but emergency cases.

A third test completed on Monday showed no E. coli, but there was still the presence of bacteria in the system, Forrest said. The tribe then flushed the system full of chlorine Wednesday, he said.

"No one really knows where the E. coli came from," Forrest said.

Karl Banks, an environmental engineer at the EPA's Pacific Southwest Drinking Water Office, said the positive test sample came from an outdoor faucet. It's possible that the faucet could have

been contaminated, he said.

Another possibility is a problem with the system's chlorinator, Forrest said. A new chlorinator was installed at the water plant in August and has been having issues communicating with the system's water meter. When employees went to check on the plant after receiving the positive test results, they found the chlorinator had shut down, he said.

Employees are now checking on the chlorinator every two hours. The tribe is planning to get a new water meter soon, which should eliminate the problem.