St. Clair residents recently received a letter from the city saying that its water system recently “violated a drinking water standard.” However, officials are certain there is no cause for alarm.

In most cases, the letters should have been received last week.

City Administrator Rick Childers said that as part of St. Clair’s routine monthly testing process, water is tested in various locations throughout the city. The samples then are sent to both an independent lab as well as to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. In May, the same sample tested fine, or “negative,” at the private lab but tested “positive” for coliform bacteria at the DNR lab.

“Our redundant testing of samples did not return a positive result, although the sample tested by DNR did return positive results,” Childers told board members during their Monday meeting. “Neither the department nor DNR labs were willing to accept the results from the lab accredited by DNR (private lab) which does our redundant testing, thus requiring letters.”

Childers emphasized that the private lab is approved by the DNR to analyze results.

“The DNR and the DNR lab went back and forth with this, so we ended up having to send the letter,” Childers said.

The routine letter stated there is no emergency, but it also explained what happened.

“On a monthly basis, the city tests water from five locations that are representative of the water used by the city’s residents,” it reads. “The water tests are intended to confirm the absence or presence of coliform and more harmful bacteria. Coliform is a bacterial indicator of more harmful bacteria. Positive tests for coliform require further testing for more harmful bacteria.

“In the month of May, the water tests at three of the five locations in town resulted in the absence of coliform. The tests at two locations, 530 Park Drive and 2273 North Service Road, resulted in the presence of coliform and the absence of more harmful bacteria.”

The letter went on to say, however, that immediately upon receiving the results, the city rechecked the water lines that feed the locations by testing the directly adjacent residences as well as all seven wells. The repeat tests on Park Drive and the North Service Road resulted in the absence of coliform.

“It’s a sensitive test,” Childers said.

Public Works Director Ed Bliss told board members that a representative from the DNR is coming to St. Clair sometime in the near future to check “our testing methods.”

The recently sent letter concludes by stating that, “Whenever we detect coliform bacteria in any sample, we do follow-up testing to see if other bacteria of greater concern, such as fecal coliform or E. coli are present.

“We did not find any of these bacteria in our subsequent testing. If we had, we would have notified you immediately.

“The city is not sure why these tests came back present with coliform. The water sample could have been contaminated through testing procedures or the system was not adequately flushed prior to testing. The city will review the testing procedures and flush the system to ensure accurate results.”

Prior Tests

St. Clair residents received similar letters in both December 2012 and January of this year indicating that a local drinking water system tested positive for bacteria.

At that time, the letter stated that a routine test showed an increased level of coliform bacteria at two locations — 1240 Michelle Lane and 106 Crescent Lake Road.

Retests came back negative.

Individuals with questions should contact city hall at 636-629-0333.