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August 22, 2009

Boil your water

State issues order after traces of bacteria found again in Gloucester's system

Gloucester was placed under an indefinite order to boil all municipal drinking water yesterday by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection after traces of coliform bacteria were found for the second time this week in the water supply.

Residents are required to boil tap water for one minute before consuming it directly or using it to cook, wash dishes, make ice or brush their teeth.

All water drawn in the last seven days — since last Saturday, Aug. 15 — and any ice, juice, formula and uncooked foods prepared with water taken from the system during that time period should be thrown out, according to the order.

Restaurants and food preparers must boil tap water for five minutes, the DEP order indicated.

Cape Pond Ice President Scott Memhard said last night that his company was bringing trailerloads of packaged ice into Gloucester today and tomorrow from ice companies outside of Gloucester, to continue to meet the needs and demands of local consumers, restaurants, and institutions with "safe ice products."

The boil order was triggered when samples of city drinking water taken either yesterday or Thursday tested positive for coliform bacteria — the second time this week there had been a positive test, Ed Coletta, spokesman for DEP, said yesterday afternoon.

Concern about the safety of Gloucester's drinking water supply has run high since a series of failures at the Babson water treatment plant began last weekend.

No traces of E. coli bacteria were found in the system, the city reported yesterday in a 4 p.m. news release that attributed the boil water order to low levels of chlorine, an anti-bacterial used in the system.

Throughout the week, Mayor Carolyn Kirk and city Public Health Director Jack Vondras had emphasized that the city's water was safe for drinking, while city crews worked to restore water reserves to their normal levels. As late as Thursday, a release from the mayor's office, aimed at updating residents on the status of the overall water system, indicated that, according to Vondras, "the public water supply continues to be safe to drink and is being regularly monitored to ensure health and human safety."

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