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E Coli Scare

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E Coli Scare

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State asks for changes in water testing procedures

HARTINGTON — Hartington’s water system is now back up to state standards, and some changes are being made to make sure the system stays that way.

Local residents were advised in early November the system had tested positive for contaminants Oct. 28.

That test triggered a follow-up in which total coliform and E. coli were discovered Nov. 6. Out of 10 sites tested in October, one came back positive for total coliform. During the follow-up test that included tests upstream and downstream from the original site, both tested positive for total coliform, and one tested positive for both total coliform and E. coli. City workers cleaned the system and retested it, getting an “all clear,” notice from the state just before Candlelight Christmas.

A state inspector visited Hartington Nov. 20 to further dissect the issue. During the state inspector's visit, the well that runs to the test site that came up positive was examined. Two wells in town were found to have issues, and both have since been remedied.

Andy Kahle, a Program Manager for Field Services and Operator Training under the Division of Drinking Water for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services said the original testing was flawed.

"Based on the assessment of the system, inadequate flushing of the faucet during sample collection likely led to the coliform presence in the samples," said Kahle. "Proper adjustment of the flow from the faucet is an important component of the sample collection process. This adjustment can cause material within the faucet to be dislodged. If adequate flushing of the faucet is not performed following adjustment, some of this material (which may contain coliform bacteria) could end up in the sample."

After reading the report, Hartington Mayor Brad Peitz said the original testing was inadequate.

"The biggest thing was our collection procedure was not done correctly, and that could have given us a false positive," he said.

The state report indicated there are two possible causes for the readings. The first is the concern of "not adequately flushing the faucet after sample stream adjustment," and the other was "not properly vetting the sample sites."

Kahle said two maintenance issues were also identified at two of the City's wells. However, these wells were absent of coliform bacterias in samples taken from the wells, which "indicates that those issues did not likely contribute to the coliform presence in the samples collected from the distribution system."

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