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Boil-water alert issued for the city; City water department initially said only part of city affected

The Mississippi State Department of Health Thursday issued a boil-water alert for customers who receive their drinking water from the City of Brookhaven water supply because the presence of E. coli and total coliform bacteria was detected.

According to the Department of Health, this affects approximately 12,513 customers.

The health department said the precaution will last at least two full days and water system officials will be immediately notified when the boil water alert is lifted.

However, Kris Xifos, the superintendent for the Brookhaven Water Department, said the number of customers affected is possibly much less. Xifos told The Daily Leader Thursday afternoon that the area affected is “everything south of East Cherokee Street and everything east of South First Street.”

That’s about 30 blocks.

Then less than an hour later, he retracted his statement. He said because the state put the entire city under a boil-water alert, everyone served by the City of Brookhaven’s water supply should take the necessary precautions and boil water vigorously for one minute to ensure its safe to drink.

Some will do that, but others, like Amanda Hightower, headed to the store to stock up on the bottled variety. Hightower, who lives on Brady Drive, has a pre-schooler and one in elementary school and didn’t want to take chances with her family’s health.

“I just wanted to make sure we didn’t get sick,” she said.

Hightower heard about the initial alert from the state Health Department, but then heard that her street wasn’t in the affected area. Then she heard it was. It was confusing. “I didn’t know,” she said.

She said she’s lived in Brookhaven for seven years and this is the first time she remembers being warned to boil her water.

Mayor Joe Cox said he doesn’t remember ever seeing an alert for the city either.

He said he was aware of some of the confusion over which part of the city should be boiling water.

“The Mississippi Department of Health has issued it for the entire city. We think it’s a precautionary measure. We should heed their notice,” he said.

Xifos said his office sends 10 samples to the health department each month. He said the two samples that came back that showed the presence of E. coli and total coliform bacteria were pulled Wednesday from the area of Brookhaven south of East Cherokee Street and east of South First Street.

He attributes the contamination to leaks in water lines Monday that were caused by the freezing temperatures over the weekend. He said leaks were repaired Monday and water is treated with chlorine daily.

Xifos said more samples were pulled Thursday and are being tested by the health department.

For more information about the boil-water alert call the Brookhaven Water Department at 601-833-7721.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency sets drinking water standards and has determined that the presence of E. coli is a serious health concern. Fecal coliforms and E. coli are bacteria whose presence indicates that the water may be contaminated with human or animal wastes. Microbes in these wastes can cause short-term effects such as diarrhea, cramps, nausea, headaches or other symptoms. They may pose a special health risk for infants, young children and people with severely compromised immune systems.

The presence of these bacteria in water generally results from a problem with the treatment process or pipes which distribute the water.

Checklist for safe water use:

Do not

• Do not drink tap water while the water system is under a boil water advisory.

• Do not drink from water fountains in parks, public or private buildings that receive water from the affected system.

• Do not use ice unless it has been made with boiled water. Freezing will not necessarily kill harmful bacteria.

• Do not use tap water to make drinks, juices, or fountain soft drinks.

Do

• Wash your dishes in boiled water, or use paper plates for the next few days.

• Wash your fruits and vegetables with boiled or bottled water since they may have been exposed to affected water from grocery store sprayers.

• Wash your hands and bathe as usual. Bathing is safe as long as no water is swallowed.

• Brush your teeth with boiled or bottled water.

• Cook with tap water if the food will be boiled for at least one minute.

And remember

• Properly chlorinated water in swimming pools is safe.

• Fish in aquariums are not affected.

Bringing water to a rolling boil for one minute will inactivate all major types of harmful bacteria.

When your boil-water notice is lifted:

• Flush faucets for a total of 10 minutes to introduce system water throughout house plumbing.

• Flush any faucet a minimum of 2 minutes to ensure clearing of the line serving the faucet.

• Discard any drinks, ice, food, etc, made during the boil water notice.

• Rewash any food or drink contact items (knives, forks, plates, etc.) with “cleared” system water.

• Check water filters (in faucets, refrigerators and elsewhere) and replace if necessary.

• Do not use water from your hot water heater for drinking until several exchanges of the tank have occurred.

• Run dishwasher through a cycle or two before washing dishes.