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Tech finds E.coli claim to be false

May 10, 2012

 

Suraj KC, a senior CIS major, drinks water rumored to have amounts of E. coli. These rumors were deemed false by water utilities operations manager for the city of Ruston, Troy Whitman. –Photo by Sumeet Shrestha

REBECCA ALVAREZ 
Staff Reporter

 

Rumors circulating around Tech’s campus suggested traceable amounts of E. coli were found in campus water supply, but after reviewing daily samples, city officials said they found no contaminants.

 

Flyers stating E. coli was detected in Tech’s water were posted over water fountains throughout campus last Thursday and Friday, leading many to question the cleanliness of the city’s water.

 

Melanie Peel, director of the Residential Life Office, said they were not aware of and did not authorize any signs to be posted in the dorms.

 

Signs that were posted elsewhere throughout campus were also unauthorized by the Student Government Association, said Becky Carswell, an office secretary in Tolliver Hall.

 

Troy Whitman, water utilities operations manager for the city of Ruston, said the city and Tech share the same water system and there were no contaminants, found in the daily samples taken since the reports.

 

“If there were any contaminants it would be known by everybody,” he said. “We are required to announce it and make sure it is known.”

 

Contaminants were last found in Ruston’s water in Nov 2010, when samples showed traces of Total Coliform bacteria. Whitman and Carl Johnson, water production supervisor, said Total Coliform bacteria are common and naturally found in water and are used as indicators of potentially harmful bacteria. The samples that tested positive for indicator bacteria were taken from a campus water source and exceeded the number of allowed contaminated samples for the city.

 

When the bacteria were found, the city issued a notice in the news and sent out notices to all customers to make them aware of the issue.

 

“We make sure everybody knows if there is something wrong,” Johnson said.

 

City officials performed additional testing of different points along the distribution lines after issuing notices and found the water tested negative for harmful contaminants.

 

The water testing procedure includes a state and a local method of sampling.

 

The state method calls for 25 samples to be taken each month that are submitted to the State of Louisiana’s Department of Environmental Quality. To ensure that the samples are not collected all in one day, city officials decided to have two sample periods in which 13 samples are collected in the first period and 12 in the second. Each period consists of one full week of testing.

 

In addition to state testing, Ruston Water Utilities also conducts sample testing. The city committed to testing the water five times daily.

 

“Ruston water undergoes a strict and controlled sampling procedure to ensure the indication of any irregularities,” said Keith Jeselink, water utilities superintendent.

 

Even though the positive sample came from Tech, the sample was true for the whole city since the systems are connected, he said. The systems have been connected for approximately two years.

 

While Tech’s water is controlled by the city, it is still the university’s responsibility to forward the city’s notification to the student body should there be any contaminants in the water, Johnson said. Any notifications given by the city would be on a document marked with the city’s official seal.

 

“E. coli is serious,” Whitman said. “It would be all over the news, and we would tell everyone to boil their water before using it.”

 

Whitman, Jeselink and Johnson said the notices may have been kept from the last positive test and put up accidently. They said the daily tests taken after the reports of the flyers indicate there are no harmful specimens or contaminants and the water is safe.

 

“Ruston goes above and beyond to make sure the water is safe,” Whitman said.

 

E-mail comments to rha014@latech.edu.

 

 

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