The city of Richland was put under a boil water notice after finding coliform and E. coli bacteria from the distribution system after a routine testing. E. coli and total coliform bacteria were detected on June 14, 2018 and exceeded maximum containment levels.

“As our customer, you have the right to know what happened and what we are doing to correct the situation,” said in a news release on the City of Richland Missouri Facebook page on June 15. After discovering the bacteria, the City of Richland began coordinating with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to investigate the bacteria in the water and conduct more sampling.

Susan Alexander, the city clerk for Richland, said the problem may come from birds or storm damage to the water tower.

“The vent at the top of the tower had been compromised. The well to the tower is fine, but the tower itself had been compromised,” Alexander said.

The City of Richland’s Utility Board gave approval to start repairs to the tower immediately. The board had contracted Hogan’s Painting and Sandblasting – who specialize in water tower renovations – to perform work on the tower. Alexander said one of the biggest concerns is getting the vent replaced. EPA regulations state a mesh screen must be placed to keep out contamination from rodents, insects, birds. The repairs will cost the city approximately $1,970 dollars.

Alexander said currently, the city of Richland is flushing the water systems with chlorine for the next seven to ten days. The contaminated tower was taken offline via the computer system it’s registered to. Alexander said the flushing will continue for seven days and the DNR will come back to perform another test. The results may take up to three days to receive back. Chlorination of the water started on Tuesday, June 19.

This is the first E.Coli outbreak in Richland, according to Alexander. “We’ve never gone through this before,” Alexander said, who referenced a public water systems employee Bob Starmer. Alexander said Starmer said he can recall up to 50 years of Richland having a clean record.

E.Coli lives naturally in the stomach, according to the Center for Disease Control, but some strains may cause serious illness. According to the CDC, E.Coli infections are spread when someone consumes small – typically invisible – amounts of human or animal feces. Symptoms include fevers, severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody) and vomiting. The CDC stated many people will get better within five to seven days, but some infections may be life threatening.

As of June 19, the boil water order is still in effect. Residents are advised to boil water before consuming. On the city’s Facebook page, Richland residents will need to run taps longer if there is discoloration in the water and be aware of a chemical smell that may be present. The city of Richland also advises residents to stop using automatic ice makers for the time being and to throw out all ice made with water that has not been boiled. Residents are also advised to disinfect dishes and utensils by submerging them in clean tap water with one teaspoon of unscented household bleach per gallon of water.

The city of Richland said the water is safe to bathe way or let animals consume. Any persons with cuts or rashes that have came in contact with contaminated water may wish to consult their physicians.

The DNR has reportedly placed fliers around the area and tried to get radio stations to inform residents of the boil water notice. The City of Richland Missouri Facebook page encourages residents to share posts, as well as print out and place fliers around the area as well. “Please share this information with all of the other people who drink this water, especially those who may not have received this notice directly (example, people in apartments, nursing homes, schools, and businesses),” the post said. “You can do this by posting this notice in a public place or distributing copies by hand or mail.”

Tri-County Fire Protection District is distributing some drinking water to try to help alleviate those impacted. Drinking water will be available for pick up from 5-6 p.m. Tuesday, June 19 at the firehouse, 111 W Washington Ave.

Additional information may be found on the City of Richland Missouri Facebook page, contacting the water system staff at (573)855-3504 or the city clerk at (573)765-4421. Residents will be notified when the boil water notice is lifted.