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Bacteria Detected in Some Madison Water Tests

No need to boil, but those with weakened immune systems should consult with healthcare providers, Madison Water Department notice says.

The Madison Water Department distributed notices to residents Wednesday saying some water test samples taken in August showed the presence of coliform bacteria, which could indicate the presence of potentially harmful bacteria, but subsequent tests did not detect the presence of any bacteria of "greater concern" and the chlorine rate was increased to ensure water quality.

The situation was "not an emergency" and "further testing shows that this problem has been resolved," the notice said, but added those who have "a severely compromised immune system, have an infant, are pregnant, or are elderly ... may be at increased risk" and should consult with their healthcare providers about drinking the water.

Otherwise, residents don't need to boil water or take other corrective action.

Two out of 15 samples taken in August tested positive for the presence of coliform bacteria, while the standard is only one sample a month may test positive, the notice said.

Madison's licensed water operator, Sal DeBiasse, said the notice explained the situation best.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Drinking WaterWatch website shows Madison samples tested positive for coliform bacteria during seven other months since 2002, including one positive sample each month in May and July this year. August 2008 and July 2009 were months the website shows Madison multiple samples tested positive for coliform bacteria.

The notice was headed "Important Information About Your Drinking Water: Tests Show Coliform Bacteria in Madison Water Dept's Water":

Our water system recently violated a drinking water standard. Although this incident was not an emergency, as our customers, you have a right to know what happened and what we did to correct this situation.

We routinely monitor for drinking water contaminants. We took fifteen (15) samples to test for the presence of coliform bacteria during August. Two (2) of our samples showed the presence of total coliform bacteria. The standard is that no more than 1 sample per month may do so.

What should I do?

You do not need to boil your water or take other corrective actions. However, if you have specific health concerns, consult your doctor.

If you have a severely compromised immune system, have an infant, are pregnant, or are elderly, you may be at increased risk and should seek advice from your health care providers about drinking this water. General guidelines on ways to lessen the risk of infection by microbes are available from EPA's Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791.

What does this mean?

This is not an emergency. If it had been you would have been notified within 24 hours. Total coliform bacteria are generally not harmful themselves. Coliforms are bacteria which are naturally present in the environment and are used as an indicator that other, potentially-harmful bacteria may be present. Coliforms were found in more samples than allowed and this was a warning of potential problems.

Usuaully, coliforms are a sign that there could be a problem with the system's treatment or distribution system (pipes). Whenever we detect coliform bacteria in any sample, we do follow-up testing to see if other bacteria of greater concern, such as fecal cliform or E. coli are present. We did not find any of these bacteria in our subsequent testing. If we had, we would have notified you immediately.

What is being done?

We are closely monitoring the system. the chlorine rate has been increased to insure water quality. Further testing shows that this problem has been resolved.

For more information, please contact Sal DeBiasse, Madison's Licensed Water Operator at 973-593-30921 or Borough of Madison, Hartley Dodge Memorial, 50 Kings Road, Madison, NJ 07940.

*Please share this information with all the other people who drink this water, especially those who may not have received this notice directly (for example, people in apartments, nursing homes, schools, and businesses). You can do this by posting this notice in a public place or distributing copies by hand or mail.

This notice is bring sent to you by Madison Water Department. State Water System ID#: NJ1417001. Date distributed: August 29, 2012.

Anonymous August 29, 2012 at 11:31 PM
Given that the following covers a fairly sizable portion of Madison's population, shouldn't this notice have been published on the borough's website, alerts issued via the police's NIXLE system, and the local media asked to inform their readers? "If you have a severely compromised immune system, have an infant, are pregnant, or are elderly, you may be at increased risk and should seek advice from your health care providers about drinking this water." Since there's no date noted in the notice, and something like this takes at least a week or more to write, print and mail, this event could have happened weeks ago.
Madison Cyclist August 30, 2012 at 12:26 PM
It's a non-event. Coliform bacteria may indicate the presence of more serious contaminants. The notice indicates they tested accordingly and results were negative. Coliform bacteria won't hurt you. In fact, the stuff living on your keyboard is way worse.
A September 01, 2012 at 03:19 AM
@Madison Cyclist: It won't hurt you UNLESS you have a severely compromised immune system (etc), as my grandfather does. These bacteria may be harmless to you, but it can kill him. As "Anonymous" above you noted, it is a VERY big deal for people who fall into those categories. This should have been reported much sooner, and in a more efficient manner
CoolBreeze September 04, 2012 at 04:21 PM
Have you interviewed ex councilman Sam Cerciello to find out what his ghost writer thinks?

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