City water safe despite letters citing bacteria, officials say

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 7, 2004

[7/7/04]Letters being mailed today to customers of Vicksburg’s water system warn of contaminants, but city officials say the water is still safe to drink.

The notice going out to about 10,000 customers of the Water and Gas Administration is required by the federal Environmental Protection Agency regulations after test results showed the presence of coliform bacteria in the water supply. Lamar Heffner, superintendent of the water plant, said two of 30 tests performed last month showed the contamination, but every other test was clear.

That doesn’t really mean a whole lot,” Heffner said.

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According to the EPA, coliform bacteria are common in the environment and are generally not harmful. However, the presence of the bacteria in drinking water is usually a result of a problem with the treatment system or the pipes that distribute water and indicates that the water may be contaminated with germs that can cause disease. Heffner said the tests for the bacteria are performed routinely because they indicate other possible contamination. He said all other tests showed no problems.

“There was nothing wrong with the water system,” Heffner said. “The samples could have gotten contaminated from the wind or all the recent rain.”

He said that six additional samples taken since the positive samples showed no contamination.

The notice is being sent out to comply with a federal law requiring water systems to inform customers of failed tests.

The notice states that some people, including those with severely compromised immune systems, infants and some elderly may be at increase risk because of the bacteria. Officials advised that anyone with concerns seek the advice of a physician, call the EPA’s safe drinking water hotline at 1-800-426-4791 or call the city water treatment plant at 636-2037.