August 5, 2006
Residents in northeastern parts of San Diego should boil their tap water before drinking it or using it for food preparation because bacteria, including E. coli, were found in one water sample drawn from a residential site, Mayor Jerry Sanders and environmental health officials announced Saturday.
Area of water alert
E. coli indicates contamination by fecal matter. It can cause nausea, stomach cramps and diarrhea. Certain strains of it can be fatal for people with weak immune systems.
The boil-water notice affects the following communities: Rancho Peñasquitos, Carmel Mountain Ranch, Rancho Bernardo, Bernardo Heights, Bernardo Trails, Bernardo Oaks, Oaks North, Pomerado Park and the Lake Hodges area.
Restaurants and other businesses that serve food to the public in those communities have been asked to close until the boil order is lifted. The county's Department of Environmental Health is sending inspectors to issue notices to close.
E. coli, a bacterium that can cause nausea, diarrhea and stomach cramps if ingested, was found in tap water tested from one site in Rancho Peñasquitos.
Residents in several communities in northern San Diego are urged to boil their drinking water for at least one minute or use bottled water. Boiled or bottled water also should be used for preparing food until further notice.
Symptoms of illness start 24 to 72 hours after ingestion. Most cases clear up on their own in a few days.
The city has established a hotline to address community concerns: (619) 570-1070.
In the meantime, a new round of tests is being conducted, and results are set to be released at a 5 p.m. news conference Sunday.
The boil order came after tests of water from a residential spigot in Rancho Peñasquitos came back positive for E. coli. The tests were conducted because a water main ruptured Tuesday. It is possible that dirt with fecal matter got into the broken pipe and ended up in the water system.
“There is reason to believe this problem could be simply limited to this immediate neighborhood,” said Sanders, who held a news conference not far from the site of the water main break near Talca Avenue and Oviedo Street.
The order is a precautionary measure, officials said.
“This is a conservative approach to take all possible caution to protect public health,” said Brian Bernados, San Diego district engineer with the California Department of Health Services.
No illnesses had been reported as of Saturday night, said Tedi Jackson, a spokeswoman with the city Water Department.
Routine water testing was done in the wake of the water main break, which has been repaired, Jackson said. Test results Thursday were positive for total coliform bacteria but negative for E. coli.
The presence of coliform bacteria, which is common in the environment but not generally harmful, typically signals a problem with the treatment system or the pipes that distribute the water, Jackson said.
As a result, a second round of testing was done Friday. Yesterday's results were positive for coliform and E. coli.
Sanders made the boil-water order shortly after he learned of the results.
As news of water contamination spread, residents in affected areas flocked to grocery stores to buy bottled water. The manager of a Vons grocery store on Bernardo Plaza Drive said people were streaming in Saturday night to buy bottled water.
“Honestly, we will probably run out,” said the manager, who declined to give his name because of company policy.