Some customers of Douglas County Rural Water District No. 2 feel little concern about the recent discovery of bacteria in the water lines, but others say they would have appreciated more information sooner after the contamination was found.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment discovered the presence of fecal coliform bacteria during a routine water sampling late last week. Greg Crawford, KDHE spokesman, said the protocol for informing water customers of contamination involves sending a message through the media.
"In a small district, I suppose they could contact people directly, but this one has 955 people," he said.
Because the contamination was discovered late last Friday and many people were away from home during the three-day weekend, the news spread more slowly than usual and caused some confusion. KDHE faxed news releases to area newspapers and radio and television stations, but the Journal-World didn't receive the release until Tuesday. The announcement reached area weekly papers too late for publication.
A KANSAS City news channel aired the announcement but warned customers living in Baldwin City, rather than in Rural Water District No. 2, to treat their water. As a result, the Baldwin water treatment plant and city hall received a barrage of phone calls from concerned residents who thought city water was contaminated.
Sharon Mader, a rural water customer, said her family had encountered no problems after treating the water and wasn't overly concerned about the contamination.
Marshall Ulrich said he didn't learn of the contamination until Tuesday, when his mother showed him a newspaper story. He started boiling water for drinking and cooking. "I'm not too worried about it," he said.
Other customers, however, feel unsettled by the uncertainty surrounding the contamination.
Margaret Penny said she and her neighbors would have liked officials to inform them immediately how serious a threat the bacteria posed.
"We wouldn't have known it (the water) needed any special attention if we hadn't heard it on the radio," she said. "That doesn't make me feel very secure."
KDHE sampled water again Wednesday and results should be available by late today, Crawford said.
CUSTOMERS should avoid drinking or cooking with untreated water. Water can be boiled for five minutes or treated with three or four drops of liquid chlorine bleach per gallon to be safe for consumption. When treated with bleach, it should stand for at least 30 minutes before using.