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Ranchos ordered to boil water

by Merrie Leininger

Who knew one bad water test would cause so much trouble?

Gardnerville Ranchos General Improvement District Manager Bob Spellberg said district workers randomly tested water at 10 residences like they do every month. On Thursday, the test came back showing one house on Bluerock Road was contaminated with E. Coli bacteria.

Since that has been announced, and a boil water order put into effect for all residents in the district, Spellberg said his office has been receiving constant phone calls.

“The phone has been ringing off the hook. Rumors are running rampant. I couldn’t even get an outside line. I had to go outside and use my cell phone,” Spellberg said from his cell phone, while taking more water samples to be tested in Reno.

He said once the test results came back, the district retested the affected residence and the homes on either side. E. Coli was again present at the outside frost-free faucet, but not at the homes on either side. It was at that point the district put the boil order in effect, as required by the state Bureau of Health Protection Services.

Spellberg released a public notice that said E. Coli bacteria can cause diarrhea, cramps, nausea, and possibly jaundice and associated headaches and fatigue. He said many people have called to say they are getting sick, but he doesn’t have any reason to believe their illnesses are caused by GID water.

“It could be a number of things in the food or water from elsewhere. Before, people have blamed us for them getting sick when it was surface water from the Lake. All our water is well water,” he said.

On Monday, the district took a water sample from inside the home. Spellberg said the test results he received Tuesday afternoon were negative for any bacteria.

“We’ve tested water on both sides of the house and throughout the neighborhood. We’ve just found E. Coli in that one faucet. There have been no problems in the rest of the houses in the neighborhood,” Spellberg said.

One final test was done Tuesday and results will be available today.

Spellberg said although the state requires he issue a boil order for the area, water from that home cannot reach the rest of the Ranchos’ water.

“That house has a meter pit in front of the house and it has a double check valve so that the water cannot backflow into the rest of our water,” he said.

The presence of E. Coli in drinking water is generally a result of water treatment or the pipes which distribute the water, he said.

Spellberg said he understands residents are concerned, but he doesn’t consider it a major problem and the district followed all the protocol for the incident.

“If it was a major incident, I would have handled it differently, but it was just one home. The state said they didn’t think it was a major problem, so we followed what they told us,” he said.

Environmental Health Specialist Kinley Goodman of the Bureau of Health Protection Services said the GID did a good job of handling the situation.

“On Thursday, the lab called me to tell me they had a positive test result for E. Coli and I told the Ranchos to issue a precautionary boil order. They took three water samples again, from the original location, which was a frost-free water faucet on the outside of the house and the houses upstream and downstream. When it came back positive, they had 72 hours to do a radio or TV notice and it was on the radio Monday,” he said. “If the samples come back negative tomorrow, the boil order will be rescinded.”

Goodman said residents should continue to boil all drinking water, including water for ice cubes, until that time. Boil water for at least two minutes, or use bottled water.

Goodman said he hasn’t received any reports of Ranchos residents getting ill from E. Coli bacteria.