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Health Department cleans up local E. coli bug

PORT ORCHARD — A water system serving a South Kitsap trailer park was shut down for several days last week after tests showed a level of E. coli and coliform contamination.

“Our most recent tests for E. coli showed a level of bacteria in our water system,” said Paul Merges, owner of the Martell Mobile Manor in Port Orchard. “We repaired some parts that had been improperly maintained, and have disinfected the system.”

Merges said the water is most likely safe at this point, but has not yet received the official all-clear.

Merges purchased the 78-home development in August. Water systems tests are required on a monthly basis, for those serving more than 14 homes or 25 people.

The water was tested on Oct. 24. Residents received a notification of possible contamination the following day, at which time residents were instructed to boil any water before drinking, or purchase bottled water.

The contamination was confirmed on Oct. 27, when stricter measures were suggested.

According to Merges, there were no reports of illness or injury as a result of the tainted water.

After the tests the system was drained and flushed. An inspection followed, resulting in a repair of the pipe system and filling a breach where water from outside the system could leak in.

A chlorination process followed.

Merges attributed the flaws to poor maintenance. He said he did not know exactly what had caused the contamination, although some residents had heard unconfirmed reports that feces had found its way into the system.

Merges did not disclose what it cost him to fix the system, but said that it was a significant amount.

He does not plan to pass the cost onto his customers, they will in fact get a credit to their bills for the time the system was shut down.

Washington State Department of Health spokesperson Carolyn Cox said that many systems test positive for coliform but are not necessarily contaminated. Rather, a positive reading can indicate potential problems.

Martell Manor, however, was clearly contaminated.

Cox said the DOH responded to 125 contamination reports in 2007.

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