St. Clair residents this week should receive a letter from the city detailing information that a local drinking water system test revealed some contamination.
Public Works Director Ed Bliss told The Missourian on Monday night that he hopes to mail the letter to citizens this week outlining the situation after a routine test showed an increased level of coliform bacteria.
Bliss emphasized the incident should not be a cause for alarm.
“I’d say the test failed because of the recent water line break we had in the area,” he said. “This is not an emergency. We had two bad tests for higher levels of coliform, and we just need to make the public aware of it.”
A water line break occurred near city hall on North Commercial Avenue near Paul Parks Drive last month. It took crews several hours to fix the break.
Bliss said shortly thereafter, the water system was tested, including near where the break occurred, and a sample came back with the higher levels of bacteria.
“I’m thinking that maybe we didn’t flush things well enough before the test,” he said. “As far as corrective action, we will flush our hydrants more frequently and more thoroughly, especially after we have a break in the line."
The city has performed another round of tests and is waiting for results from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. It was the DNR that alerted Bliss to the recent water situation after it received St. Clair’s water sample.
The letter sent to local residents should state that the city’s water system recently violated a drinking water standard, and although it is not considered an emergency, customers have a right to know what happened, what should be done and what the city is doing to correct the situation.
Bliss said boiling water to ensure it’s safe to use should not be necessary for this type of violation. But, he said individuals with specific health concerns should contact their doctor.
City Administrator Rick Childers has said the city’s drinking water is tested monthly.
Individuals with questions should contact Bliss at 636-629-0333 or visit him at city hall.
Having increased bacteria levels in the city’s water test samples is nothing new for St. Clair. On and off throughout 2011, the city had similar problems.
Things never were bad enough to warrant a cause for alarm or even to issue a boil order, but the issue did create headaches for city personnel.
Everything started in April 2011 when a routine monthly system test revealed some contamination at Well No. 2, one of six the city uses. A letter was sent to all users at the beginning of June explaining the situation, but Childers emphasized there was no cause for alarm.
From that point on until almost the end of the year, more “positive” test results came back at various times. City hall and the wastewater treatment plant especially had problems. But, the elevated levels of coliform bacteria were minor, both Childers and former Public Works Director Brian Otten said.
Well No. 2, which went offline when the first incident occurred, was back online by the beginning of August. However, at about the same time, the city issued a water boil advisory when a water line leak was discovered on the west side of town, and workers had to lower the pressure on the system to repair it. Officials said everything was fine a couple of days later.
In November, however, higher levels of coliform again were found in the water system when a routine test was conducted at city hall. That discovery led to a second letter sent to residents informing them of the situation and another assurance from city officials that there was no cause for alarm.
At the beginning of December, the water woes at city hall continued and left Childers and Otten puzzled. Four water tests had been taken and they all came back positive. In between the tests, the lines at city hall were flushed.
Childers was confident the problem was confined to city hall as tests both upstream and downstream from there showed no contamination. A similar situation took place at the wastewater treatment plant on Highway AB near Happy Sac Road, but that quickly was resolved.
Childers also said the elevated levels of coliform were miniscule.
Finally, after a third letter was sent to city residents in mid-December outlining the situation at city hall, and indicating all tests, including the government facility at 1 Paul Parks Drive, came back negative.