Just the facts

Friday, I learned through social media that our town had tested positive for Coliform bacteria in our water.  I had to Google what that bacteria was because I had never heard about it before.  Now, I know everything there is to know about Coliform, Total Coliform, Fecal Coliform and Federal water safety standards.

Now, to be fair, I initially got on the 'enraged' bandwagon with who knows how many angry people who live in this town.  The anger stemmed from the fact that the statement issued by the City Attorney was such that the only people who had to boil and sanitize water were food handlers and healthcare workers.  His statement implied that the rest of us were held to a lower standard and it was okay for us to drink a bacteria reserved for the intestines of warm blooded animals.   When people inquired as to the double standard...there was no answer.  No one had a satisfying answer.

I am so tired of the political rhetoric.  I am tired that Americans are treated with such little regard as to our intelligence.  I am tired that Americans continue to play the role of the person who has to be governed in all things.  What happened to honesty, integrity...even critical thinking?  Have we become so accustomed to being told what to do by the government that we no longer think for ourselves?

To start with, I chose to decide for myself if our family would drink the water.  I chose to adopt the same rules that the hospitals and food handlers have.  No tap water.  Handwashing with soap and water and then a healthy dose of hand sanitizer to kill the residual bacteria.

That was only the start to my plan...The only way to really feel safe is to arm yourself with knowledge.  So, I began educating myself on Federal standards for water safety.  I poured over literature from the EPA and DEQ.  I read all I could on how much Coliform is an acceptable level.  Our city keeps telling us the level is very low and not enough to alarm all the citizens, just healthcare and food handlers.

Here is really, what the EPA and DEQ  says about acceptable levels of Coliform in drinking water.

The acceptable level is 0

But...there's more...

  • For a town our size, they are suppose to be testing the water at least 60 times a month!  I'm sure it's more but I am estimating how many people are serviced by city water.   The more people, the more often it has to be tested. 
  • The city can't have more than 5% of those tests come back positive for Coliform
  • At 5% of bad tests, it's considered a level 1.  The public must be notified and food handlers and healthcare workers are given a boil order but not anyone else. 
Here's why it's just a select group of people...

It is very costly to test bacteria levels in water not to mention all the other things they are monitoring.  They have discovered that a total Coliform number gives them a good idea as to the health and bacteria level in a water system.  In other words, Total Coliform is a clear indication that other bad bacteria exists in the water.  Once they get the 5% of having coliform over '0', they have to do multiple tests to determine where the bacteria is coming from and begin the process of identifying the other bacteria present such as E-coli, Fecal Coliform etc.  

Once the public is notified, which has to be within 24 hours of discovering a total Coliform numbers above 0, we have already been drinking a water with unacceptable bacteria levels for anywhere from 24 hours to one month...because they don't have to report any numbers unless 5% of tests come back positive in a month's period.  The first positive test could have happened 20 days ago! 

Then...they have to retest and hunt down other bacteria and the source of contamination.  This could take another few days.  That means, at the first sign of high coliform, they have no idea if we are really dealing with something worse like E-Coli.  That may show up days after.  Food handlers run the risk of being sued if someone gets sick so they are on high alert, and healthcare workers, namely hospitals because they are already dealing with very sick and susceptible people.  The rest of us?  The government thinks we can take the wait and see approach. 

I have a better understanding of how water security works but I still disagree with the government standards.  I think if there is more than 0 levels of Coliform, it should be mandatory boil order because it indicates something bigger going on.  It's like the ache someone feels in their left arm just before a heart attack.  Coliform is a red flag!  

My children have very fragile immune systems.  Any bacteria that does not serve a person well, would be deadly for my children.  It would be deadly for infants and elderly as well.  We pay thousands of dollars a month in medical expenses to keep their immune systems as healthy as possible.  Currently, all three of my kids are Neutropenic, which means their white count is significantly low and the neutrophils, which are a white cell that is one of the major infection fighters is also extremely low.   Perhaps I wouldn't have been so upset this week about the water if I wasn't already dealing with the fact that one of my children tested positive for Arsenic in their blood earlier in the week.  Another poison that can enter our drinking water.  

It makes me question everything about our food supply, our water supply, what the government tells us to keep us happy and the things they don't tell us.  It is not enough to blindly trust them.  We must be educated in keeping our family safe.  We must ask questions and when we don't get an acceptable answer, keep looking.   Research.   There is more to life than being a sitting duck. 

I'm pretty sure not one member on the city council really has a clue what Coliform is and what it means when it is found.  This should not have been taken as lightly as it seemed to have been taken by the City.  24 hours after the notice was given, I still ran into lots of people who had no clue what was going on.  We need to wake up and be proactive.  Not angry, not lackadaisical, not ignorant but focused, active, critical thinkers.

When I tell people that I am adopting the same standards of caution as hospitals, they look at me with a pitiful look...and a smirk...like I am some crazy person.  They placate me and tease but I really don't care.  I will never regret protecting and caring for my kids. 



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