Santa Fe Hills residents are warned to boil water

Published: Friday, June 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, June 1, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

Residents of the Santa Fe Hills subdivision in Alachua are being warned to boil water because of bacterial contamination.

Routine water sampling of the subdivision's water system found the potentially deadly E. coli bacteria. Alachua County has instituted a boil-water notice for about 65 homes, located in the subdivision west of Interstate 75 near Santa Fe High School.

Paul Myers, the county's environmental health director, said anything from a testing error to a cracked pipe could have caused the result. "It's not real easy to pinpoint," he said.

But he said no one has reported stomach aches, vomiting or other symptoms associated with ingestion of E. coli. The system has been cleaned with a massive dose of chlorine, and the boil notice will remain until two days of tests show no contamination, he said.

E. coli - short for Escherichia coli - is usually harmless but some strains can cause severe illness and death. Such illnesses have been associated with undercooked meat in recent U.S. cases.

But seven people from a small Canadian town died in 2000 after drinking water contaminated with E. coli. The incident was later linked to cow manure being washed into a well that supplied water.

Myers said tests showed chlorine present in the Santa Fe Hills water should have been enough to kill the bacteria. He said the contamination could have entered the water between the time it was purified and distributed to residents, possibly through a cracked pipe. A sampling error could have also caused the results, he said.

The system was private until the county took control in 2002, said Kenneth Fair of Alachua County Public Works. The county takes routine monthly water tests as required by state law, he said.

The county recommends residents drink bottled water until the order is lifted. Residents should hold the water in a rolling boil for one minute before other uses.

As an alternative, residents can disinfect water by adding eight drops of plain unscented household bleach per gallon of water and then let it stand for 30 minutes. If the water is cloudy after 30 minutes, the procedure must be repeated.

Nathan Crabbe can be reached at 352-338-3176 or crabben@gville

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