Alamosa Water Finally Rid of SalmonellaApr 15, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP
At long last, the residents of Alamosa, Colorado can drink their water. The community has received confirmation that Alamosa’s water supply is finally clear and totally free from salmonella and the community can use their tap water once again. It has been weeks since Alamosa residents were ordered to stop using their domestic tap water due to a confirmed salmonella contamination and residents were forced to rely on bottled water, and—once the ban on showers was lifted—very brief showers. Over 380 people were stricken with salmonella contamination, 15 were hospitalized.
Governor Bill Ritter released a statement saying, “The citizens of Alamosa have shown their character and resiliency in getting through what has been a unique public health emergency in Colorado. While the state was able to quickly mobilize assistance to the community, I want to commend Alamosa city and county employees and its residents for working together during this hardship.”
Last month, the water supply in Alamosa became tainted with salmonella bacteria—among other bacteria types—rendering the water there unfit to drink. Since March 19th, Alamosa residents were unable to use tap water for brushing teeth, washing dishes, drinking, and cooking. At one point, there was not much residents could do other than flush their toilets. Schools and restaurants were closed and the National Guard was handing out bottled water. To resolve the problem, crews flushed Alamosa's water supply with chlorine, which also rendered the water unfit to drink. Because of the initially high concentrations of chlorine used in the weeks-long flushing process, the residents of Alamosa were also unable to shower. When the chlorination treatment moved into Stage 2 with lower chlorine levels, most adults were able to take showers, but very brief showers. The ban on drinking, cooking, or brushing teeth with tap water remained in effect until the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment signed off
on the water system testing. There is a five-day turnaround between the samples' arrival at the lab and final test results and crews worked to lower chlorine levels so the testing could proceed.
Nearly 400 people have had the stomach cramping, diarrhea, fevers and other symptoms of salmonella infection. People infected with salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps within 12 to 72 hours of infection. Laboratory testing is required to determine the presence of Salmonella; additional testing can determine the specific type and which antibiotics are needed. Generally, the illness lasts a week and most recover without treatment; however, the elderly, infants, and people with impaired immune systems may require treatment and—in some—hospitalization is required because the infection may have spread from the intestines to the blood stream and other body sites. Severe cases can result in death if not treated. Waterborne salmonella outbreaks are fairly rare, said Mark Salley, a spokesman for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
It is not known how the water initially became contaminated with the salmonella bacteria and, to date, about 10,000 people were affected by the contamination. The investigation continues to find the actual contamination cause.