FULTON, NY – The city of Fulton received notice Tuesday that water samples that were taken Monday tested free of E. coli bacteria. If the same results come in today, a boil water advisory that was put in place Saturday will be lifted.
Tuesday evening, Fulton Mayor Ronald Woodward and members of the Fulton Common Council explained the events that resulted in the advisory and the approach that was taken to mitigate the problem.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThere are a lot of stories out there,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Woodward said.
Woodward said more than likely, the root of the problem can be attributed to three water line breaks that took place last week as the city was conducting its routine flushing program. Because of the pressure that is released when hydrants are opened, Woodward said the city will occasionally experience water line breaks.
The breaks took place at points along Broadway. Woodward noted that the lines tie into the water main that leads to the northeast quadrant of the city where the bacteria was detected.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWe have 63 miles of water line in the city,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Woodward said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œSome of that line is 100 years old. There are going to be breaks.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Woodward noted, too, that the city taps its supply of water from the Onondaga County Water Authority during its flushing program. Often, that supply sits untouched for six months to a year.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œI donÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t know if this was caused by the line breaks, but it makes sense to me,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Woodward added.
Woodward said that the city received notice Friday that a water sample taken Thursday at a restaurant tested positive for E. coli bacteria. The city was directed to take another sample from somewhere close to the original testing site.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œSaturday, we were notified that there was one colony of E. coli,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Woodward said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThat triggered the city-wide (boil water) notification. If that second test had come back clean, this wouldnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t have happened at all.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œA business over there has been erroneously blamed for this,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â he noted. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThat business was just a testing site.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Once the notification came in, Woodward said that the cityÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s top priority was removing the problem. Flushing was conducted again in the northeast quadrant and the water tower on the east side was chlorinated in an attempt to kill any traces of bacteria.
Woodward pointed out that while he does not minimize the situation, the threat of the amount of E. coli found was minimal.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œFive years ago, (the boil water level) was 100 colonies,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Woodward said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œNow it is one.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Woodward said that the city also worked to get the information out to all of the local news media and the six city aldermen. Officials also notified the hospital, the school district and industries that use water in their production activities, such as Birdseye.
Lawmakers were in hot water with some residents over their approach to public notification, however. Residents at the meeting suggested more should have been done Saturday to notify residents and answer questions.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThe water department didnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t have anyone on staff to answer questions,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â resident Leonard Kellogg said. Kellogg noted that the departmentÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s answering machine message directed questions to the city police department, which also had no information.
Kellogg suggested that the city develop an emergency plan that involves all department heads so that information can be accessed in the event something happens again.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWe need a Web site,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â resident Jo Farrell said. Farrell noted that she found out there was a problem from her mother, who saw something on the news and called her.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWhat if this had been a serious problem?ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Farrell asked. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œHow would you have notified (the public) quickly?ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Woodward pointed out that if the situation had posed a significant health threat, the city could have shut the water down entirely while notifications were made. He noted, however, that turning off the water poses different risks. He used fire emergencies as an example.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œUnfortunately, things like this cause a lot of concern,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â he said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œIf we thought it was criticalÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ we would have done more (to make sure every resident was informed).
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œI do appreciate the input,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Woodward said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWhat we try to react to first is getting rid of the problem.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
First Ward Alderman Tom Kenyon pointed out that the experience will help the city better plan for future problems.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWe can look at these different things now,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Kenyon said.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWhen you have an event, you can learn from it and go forward,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â city attorney Mary Rain said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œI think the city did an excellent job. I was 100 miles away and I heard about it.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Fifth Ward Alderman Norman ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œJayÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Foster pointed out that when he was notified, he immediately tapped his community neighborhood watch as a source to get information out.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThe thing that seemed to work best was neighbors being good neighbors and friends being good friends,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Foster said.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œA lot of times when you try to notify a large area, thereÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s delays that sometimes you canÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t help,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Fourth Ward Alderman Dana Smith said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThings were done well. The first thing was to eliminate the problem.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â