Tests: no deadly E. coli in PWB water samples

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) — Test results on two of the water samples containing E. coli that prompted a boil water order in Portland last week did not test positive for deadly strains of the bacteria.

The lab tests did not find E. coli 0157 and other strains of E.coli that are associated with severe food poisoning outbreaks, officials said Tuesday.

The sample from Mount Tabor Reservoir 5 went sent to the lab Tuesday. Those results will be back soon.

The boil water order was issued Friday morning after samples from Reservoirs 1 and 5 showed contamination and at the water sampling station at SE 2nd Avenue and Salmon Street.

Mount Tabor Reservoir 1, May 27, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)
Mount Tabor Reservoir 1, May 27, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)

Both reservoirs were taken offline and the sampling station system flushed, officials said. Reservoir 5 continues to be power washed. The bureau said they hope to have Reservoir 1 back online this week, and Reservoir 5 by Friday.

The boil water order was lifted around 11 a.m. Saturday.

Portland Water Bureau administrator David Shaff said they may never know the exact cause of the positive test.

When asked if an error in taking the samples led to the positive results, Shaff was happy to reply.

“I’m glad you asked that because that’s one of the things we dealt with in 2009 and we make sure our protocols are such to eliminate sampler error,” he told KOIN 6 News.

He said these positive tests could not have been the result of an error by the sampler because different people took each of the positive samples. Shaff said there are also very specific sanitary procedures.

“I have people that do nothing but take water samples so they’re very good at what they do,” he said.

Shaff said officials know “it was a fecal contaminant, and unfortunately, at least with open reservoirs, they’re subject to having animals in that.”

At the Portland Bottling Company, “operations are back to normal and we are still rocking and rolling.”

That’s what company president Tom Keenan said Tuesday, but admitted it was “devastating when we have a situation like that.”

The company shut down after Friday’s boil water order, dump 12,000 gallons of water and flush their systems.

“There were some costs but it’s part of doing business and E. coli is just something we all fight all the time,” he said. “We test for it all the time and the city tests for it all the time.”

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