Bacteria found in school water again

By Beth A. Birmingham | Feb 13, 2017
Source: File Photo

Waldoboro — On Feb. 8, Courier Publications received an anonymous copy of a letter dated Jan. 30 that was sent home to the families of students at Medomak Middle School.

"The results of our latest water test indicated that our well water contains coliform again," the letter states. "Water samples tested negative for E.coli, and our water continues to be safe to drink and use. There are no water restrictions at MMS."

The letter goes on to quote from the Maine Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, 2013: "Coliforms are not harmful themselves, but when present in drinking water, disease-causing microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites may have gotten into the water supply by the same route as the coliforms."

A warning in the letter states: "Although unlikely, your child may develop symptoms such as stomach cramps, mild diarrhea, fever or flu-like symptoms. Should any of these symptoms occur, you should contact your child's primary care physician."

An attempt to reach Kate Race, principal, to discuss the issue was responded to by referring all questions to George Bridges, director of facilities. No response has been received from Bridges to date.

Superintendent Steve Nolan said in an email Feb. 8: "We have a state licensed water operator conduct regular water samples to make sure the water quality meets state drinking water requirements. When a problem is detected we work with our water operator to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. A recent water sample detected coliform. The Maine Drinking Water Program office is aware and determined the water is safe to drink, but require us to conduct an assessment with our water operator to identify the source and eliminate it."

The CDC reports that "most bacteria in wells or springs come from surface water directly entering the well. The water may be contaminated by bacteria that are naturally in the soils, decayed animal waste or human activities. As surface water seeps downward through the soil to the water table, these bacteria may be naturally removed by the soils. The extent of removal depends on the depth and character of the soil."

Disinfecting the water containing coliform bacteria is recommended by the CDC. This may be done by mixing chlorine bleach with the water in the well. The amount of chlorine needed depends on the degree of contamination.

In response to an email question, "Even if there is only a slight chance of someone developing the symptoms outlined in the letter, why take a chance?" And asking how the disinfecting process recommended by the CDC website occurs, Nolan stated in a Feb. 10 reply: "We're following their [Maine Drinking Water Program] guidelines with our water operator's help. My understanding is the water remains safe for consumption because this is a low-level concern that requires an assessment and likely cleaning with chlorine bleach, which will take place when the building is unoccupied."

A sticky note attached to the letter requested "Would someone please look into why MVMS is still having water issues. This is the second letter I have gotten this year. Water has been an issue with that school since it opened in 2009!"

For more information, contact the Maine Drinking Water Program at; Health and Environmental Testing Lab at maine.govstandard.htm; or Environmental & Occupational Health Program at

Nolan said he has not received any calls, complaints or concerns from district families regarding this issue. He said a progress report will be given at the school board's next meeting, Feb. 16.

Courier Publications reporter Beth A. Birmingham can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 125 or via email at

Comments (1)
Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Feb 14, 2017 16:49

Just because families did not complain does not make it OK to continue using that contaminated drinking water. Healthy people should be the first concern, second is to fix the problem with, perhaps, commercial filters, if there is such a thing. I sure am glad my grandchildren graduated long ago and was not a problem then, in the old school.

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