Lawmakers Take Heat Over Notice; Boil Water Advisory May Lift Today

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.

“There are a lot of stories out there,” 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.

“We have 63 miles of water line in the city,” Woodward said. “Some of that line is 100 years old. There are going to be breaks.”

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.

“I don’t know if this was caused by the line breaks, but it makes sense to me,” 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.

“Saturday, we were notified that there was one colony of E. coli,” Woodward said. “That triggered the city-wide (boil water) notification. If that second test had come back clean, this wouldn’t have happened at all.

“A business over there has been erroneously blamed for this,” he noted. “That business was just a testing site.”

Once the notification came in, Woodward said that the city’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.

“Five years ago, (the boil water level) was 100 colonies,” Woodward said. “Now it is one.”

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.

“The water department didn’t have anyone on staff to answer questions,” resident Leonard Kellogg said. Kellogg noted that the department’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.

“We need a Web site,” 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.

“What if this had been a serious problem?” Farrell asked. “How would you have notified (the public) quickly?”

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.

“Unfortunately, things like this cause a lot of concern,” he said. “If we thought it was critical… we would have done more (to make sure every resident was informed).

“I do appreciate the input,” Woodward said. “What we try to react to first is getting rid of the problem.”

First Ward Alderman Tom Kenyon pointed out that the experience will help the city better plan for future problems.

“We can look at these different things now,” Kenyon said.

“When you have an event, you can learn from it and go forward,” city attorney Mary Rain said. “I think the city did an excellent job. I was 100 miles away and I heard about it.”

Fifth Ward Alderman Norman “Jay” Foster pointed out that when he was notified, he immediately tapped his community neighborhood watch as a source to get information out.

“The thing that seemed to work best was neighbors being good neighbors and friends being good friends,” Foster said.

“A lot of times when you try to notify a large area, there’s delays that sometimes you can’t help,” Fourth Ward Alderman Dana Smith said. “Things were done well. The first thing was to eliminate the problem.”


  1. What bothers me is i know someone who works at the restaurant that tested positive and they were told friday there was a problem with the water. Then I am at an elderly friends house who just got home form the hospital and we are sitting around drinking water and I get a all from ym girlfriend about the water situtaion being on the news. So my problem was why wasn’t the people of Fulton privalged to this knowledge on Friday. You tell the restaurant owner and as far as the 5th ward. I live there and no, no one told us. It was seen on the wtvh news at 6pm. I agree with Kellog and Farrell, hopefully we do learn from this experience and be better prepared for the next emergency

  2. So are they going to adjust our water bills for the water we had to buy since we couldn’t drink the water. I feel they should but this won’t happen.

  3. Ok so was it a restaurant or at the car dealer as reported in a previous article. The other article said that the water was tested from an unused hot water tank that was not used for drinking. Could we get the stories straight please. I think that they did try to get the word out but it didn’t get out as much as hoped. I didn’t find out about it until 11pm on Sat. We don’t watch the news during the day on Sat. especially after the morning weather. The City website has barley any information on it about the city much less emergency situations. I think alderman contacting local people to help spread the word would work well. Also how about signs posted at stores etc., even at the major road corners. Just a thought.

  4. I think the county is up-grading the E-911 center – they may be able to do revrese 911 calls when the up grades are complete. Onondaga County already has that system in place and it works great.

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