Residents in Eagle subdivision get sick from drinking irrigation water
Eagle - The Center District Health Department has received 20-25 reports of Eagle residents getting sick from the water in the Corrente Bello Subdivision, the CDHD said it was likely a gastrointestinal illness.
Suez water and residents discovered that irrigation water from a nearby canal made it into several homes in the subdivision and that people in the neighborhood were drinking contaminated water.
My fifteen-year-old was sick, I was sick, two of my daughters were sick," said Karen Howell who has eight children. "I ran a bath for two-year-old and the water was brown."
This neighborhood uses potable water for drinking, but they also have non-potable water that residents can use to water their lawns or their gardens, each home has what is called a backflow that acts as a fail safe to prevent the irrigation water from mixing in with the drinking water in the homes.
Suez Water discovered one backflow in the neighborhood that got installed backward and said that was the cause of tainting the water in several Corrente Bello homes.
"Since 2012 we have had three similar cases and in every case, it was the result of an improperly installed device by an unlicensed individual," said Marshall Thompson the general manager for Suez.
Suez said they don't install the backflow devices, those are the homeowner's responsibility, however, Suez said it is important to get the backflow installed by a licensed company and to get it checked every year.
Residents did have their complaints about Suez during this whole process, mainly because one neighbor called the water company on July 14 after discovering brown water.
Suez said they responded with a technician who flushed the lines to that home, but they said they didn't find low levels of chlorine, a red flag for contaminated water because Suez uses chlorine to treat drinking water.
Suez called this an isolated incident and said it's not out of the ordinary to calls regarding brown water, the technician told the homeowner their water was safe.
Another neighbor called Suez back on July 18, this time around Suez did find low levels of chlorine and then discovered the improperly installed backflow device, then Suez flushed the system and collected samples to test the water.
"Overall we responded in a timely manner," said Thompson. "Unfortunately the water quality testing to verify the water sample takes two days to process."
On July 20 Suez alerted the residents that their water was safe, but they issued a boil advisory to let residents know that the water inside their homes was likely still contaminated.
Suez said the residents needed to flush their plumbing system, turn their water heater to the highest setting, boil any water they were using in the home until the system was flushed and replace all their water filters.
"We are out one hundred dollars in filters," said Howell who was about to take her fifteen-year-old to the hospital. "I know people who have medical bills that they have to pay and nobody says they are responsible for this, it is getting passed on to us."
Howell also had complaints because she wanted to know what kind of bacteria her family was drinking, Suez did not test the contaminated water until after they flushed the lines.
We asked Suez who the homeowner was that had the backflow device that caused the problem, they told us they would not give out that information in an effort to protect their customers.