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Boil-water advisory remains in effect for Brookhaven

A boil-water notice issued by the Mississippi State Department of Health Thursday will remain in effect until samples come back clear for two consecutive days, an official with the department said Friday afternoon.

The agency issued the alert for the 12,500 customers who receive their drinking water from the City of Brookhaven water supply after samples taken Wednesday showed the presence of E. coli and total coliform bacteria.

Health officials strongly recommend that all water be boiled vigorously for one minute before it is consumed.

Liz Sharlot, director of communications for the state Department of Health, said Friday that the state needed to see “two days of clear samples” before the advisory can be lifted.

Samples were collected Thursday and Friday.

She said as soon as the sample tests show there is no presence of E. coli or coliform bacteria, the advisory would be lifted. That could be as early as today, but Sharlot did not know when the advisory could be lifted.

Customers can go to healthyms.com and search under boil-water notices for the latest status for Brookhaven, she said.

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.

Kris Xifos, the superintendent for the Brookhaven Water Department, 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.

Customers were confused Thursday because soon after the state issued the boil-water alert, the city said the alert effected only the 30 blocks between East Cherokee Street and South First Street. Then an hour later, Xifos released a statement saying that 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 advised by the state.

Sharlot said she was not aware of any confusion, but stressed that customers should follow the state’s advice. “If we do a state imposed boil-water alert, you should do what we say,” she said.

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 THE BOIL-WATER ALERT 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.