City of Bartlesville: Water tested positive for coliform, though nothing harmful

BARTLESVILLE, Okla. - Bartlesville's water violated a federal standard for the presence of coliform bacteria in August, but residents are not to be alarmed, according to city officials.

According to a public notification the city mailed to Bartlesville residents during the weekend, out of 40 samples taken in August to test the water for coliform, seven samples tested positive – exceeding the Environmental Protection Agency's standard that no more than two samples, or five percent of the samples, test positive.

The notice said the situation is "not an emergency," saying is no need for residents to boil their water or take other corrective action, but added "people with severely compromised immune systems, infants and some elderly" may be at increased risk and "should seek advice about drinking water from their health care providers."

City officials said in the letter coliform bacteria are generally not themselves harmful, are naturally occurring in the environment and are "used as an indicator that other potentially harmful bacteria may be present."

The notification further states, however that follow-up tests revealed no E. coli or other such harmful bacteria.

Additionally according to the notice, samples taken the same month from throughout Bartlesville's water distribution system showed chlorine treatment in the water ranged from 1.45 to 2.24 parts per million, well above the EPA minimum chlorine concentration of 1 part per million.

According to the notice, all seven samples that tested positive for coliform "were above the minimum disinfection level." All retake sample have returned negative.

When contacted by 2NEWS about the notice, City of Bartlesville Water Utilities Director Mike Hall voiced a suspicion that the coliform found did not come from the water system, due to its exceedingly high chlorine levels.

"You can't have those (bacteria) live in water with that amount of chlorine," he said. "If I were guessing, I would say the samples were contaminated as they were being taken or during testing."

Hall said 30 samples taken from throughout the city's water distribution system as part of a recent test for concentrations of lead and copper revealed no lead and showed copper levels well below the the EPA standard.

In an update on a taste and odor study for which the city hired an engineering firm last month to find solutions to prevent an odd-tasting and smelling water issue Bartlesville residents experienced in August, Hall said Kansas City-based Black & Veatch has completed its visit to Bartlesville's water treatment plant.

He said the firm is now conducting an analysis of the information it collected to present possible treatment alternatives and an engineering report to the council in the coming months.

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