BY MELANIE BUCK –
A Total Coliform Rule has been violated by Mena Water Utilities, however, Department Manager Charles Pitman says consumers should not be worried and the problem has been fixed. The Total Coliform Rule is part of the Safe Drinking Water Act and when a violation occurs, letters must be sent to all consumers reporting the violation. This is the first time that Mena Water Utilities has had a violation of this rule.
“It doesn’t mean that the water is unsafe to drink. It means that something organic was detected in the water,” said Pitman. “Even though the chlorine was high enough to kill whatever was in the water, it hadn’t completely dissolved it,” he added.
Pitman explained that the sample that showed the violation was from a line that only has a couple of services, so it was an isolated event, but letters are still required to be sent to everyone on the system. Pitman also said that even though Freedom Water and Acorn Water consumers were not affected, they still must receive a letter because they are on a ‘consecutive system’ with Mena Water Utilities.
“We had the water tested above the sample site and it passed. We replaced a leaking valve that was close enough to the sample site that with pressure changes, a bug could have crawled into the line and been pulled down into the sample,” he explained.
Drinking water standards are set and regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and has determined that the presence of total coliforms can be a possible health concern. Coliforms are bacteria that are always present in the digestive tracts of animals, including humans, and are found in their wastes. They are also found in plant and soil material. Your immune system can determine whether or not you could become ill from coliform contamination. People become accustomed to the natural bacteria in their water while their guests may have some discomfort or diarrhea after drinking your water. Immune deficient people may become ill under circumstances where people with ‘normal’ immune systems would not. According to the EPA, more than 9,000 Total Coliform Rules violations occurred each year from 2000 through 2004.
Coliforms can be found in municipal water systems as well as private well systems and testing for the bacteria often is encouraged. According to Cliff Treyens, Director of Public Awareness, National Ground Water Association who wrote a paper on coliforms in private wells, “Most coliforms are harmless residents of soil and will not make people sick.” He also said, “If you have unsafe levels of coliform bacteria, obtain an alternative source of drinking and cooking water until the problem is solved. Cleaning the well may remove the bacteria, and the water can certainly be made safe using a home treatment system.”
If you have questions regarding Mena Water Utilities violation, contact them at 479-394-2671 for Mena, 479-394-7500 for Freedom Water, and 479-394-1025 for Acorn Water. You can also contact the Department of Health, Engineering Section, at 501-661-2623.