Mercer Island Water May Be Safe, But Run Your Faucets | KUOW News and Information

Mercer Island Water May Be Safe, But Run Your Faucets

Sep 30, 2014

Mercer Island, a tony Seattle suburb, shut down its restaurants and schools through Monday after E. coli was found in the city's water supply.
Credit Mercergov.org Photo

Mercer Island schools reopened Tuesday as officials said the city’s water supply was safe again after increased chlorination over the weekend. But they advised residents to first run cold water from every tap in their homes for five minutes, starting on the highest floor.

Discolored tap water should be run until it’s clear.

Public Health official Becky Elias says any food that may have come in contact with tap water over the weekend should be discarded.

“We also recommend that people wash down and sanitize their countertops, their cutting boards, to run their dishwasher a couple times just so they’ve flushed out that dishwasher system, as well.”

Ice should be thrown out, and ice machines run for a full cycle.

That new ice should be thrown out, too, and ice receptacles should be disinfected.

Mercer Island’s public schools were closed Monday as water systems were flushed.

Restaurants were forced to close over the weekend, too, but allowed to reopen Monday after health department inspections. Health department workers visited restaurants in person to tell managers their kitchens weren’t safe to operate until the boil advisory was lifted.

Grocery stores were told to throw out produce that was washed or misted with water over the weekend.

State health department inspectors could not pinpoint the source of the island’s water woes.

But they say it’s uncommon for them to figure out exactly where a system broke down in these cases.

After the city increased chlorination at sites with lower chlorine levels, samples showed the E. coli contamination was over.

Meantime, Mercer Island city officials say they’re looking at improvements to their emergency alert system following the weekend’s boil water advisory.

Health department officials say they don’t know how Mercer Island tap water became contaminated with E. coli bacteria last week.

City Manager Noel Treat says when the city learned that its water system was contaminated with E. coli on Saturday, officials tried to get the word out quickly.

They sent out news releases, posted on social media sites, emailed citizens, and had first responders put up posters all over town.

But Treat says there were hiccups, as well.

“We did initiate a reverse 911 service, an auto-dialer that calls landlines,” Treat says. “That takes many hours to reach all of those lines. We did encounter some technical difficulties with that system and we’re investigating that right now to look for a better solution.”