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Precautionary Boil Water Advisory lifted for some of Baltimore, mayor promises citywide water bill discount

24 of 25 tests taken after disclosure of water contamination came back negative, officials say
24 of 25 tests taken after disclosure of water contamination came back negative, officials say 03:31

BALTIMORE - Twenty-four of 25 samples taken in a follow-up round of testing came back negative for E. coli and coliform, bacteria discovered in West Baltimore's drinking supply last week, Baltimore Department of Public Works Director Jason Mitchell said.

The one positive sample was collected at a police station at 1034 N. Mount St. in Sandtown-Winchester, one of three locations where earlier tests came back positive for E. coli and coliform, triggering the city on Monday to issue a Required Boil Water Advisory for a 56-square block area of West Baltimore.

A fire station in the impacted area that previously tested positive came back negative, Mitchell said.

For now, about 1,500 residences and businesses in the impacted area will remain under the Required Boil Water Advisory.

There was a precautionary advisory in effect for a much larger area that stretched from Bolton Hill in the northeast, Rosemont in the northwest, and parts of southwest Baltimore County.  

But Mayor Brandon Scott lifted that precautionary advisory on Wednesday night.

He said during a press conference that after reviewing water samples, the city had obtained clearance from the Maryland Department of the Environment to lift the precautionary advisory for a portion of the city and the part of Baltimore County that initially fell into the water-boil zone.

"We are expecting more test results later on this evening and early into tomorrow," he said.

Meanwhile, the Baltimore City Department of Public Works, also known as DPW, is asking everyone remaining under a Boil Water Advisory to flush all of the water in their house for 15 minutes.

Scott apologized for the inconvenience the contaminated water supply has caused Baltimore's residents.

He said everyone in the city would be given a 25% discount on water bills in the next cycle.

People who live in an area that is under a water boil advisory should heat their water to a "rolling boil" for at least one minute to kill any bacteria. This will make the water safe for the following activities: drinking, brushing teeth, washing fruits and vegetables, preparing baby food and formula, making ice, giving to pets, washing dishes, and preparing food.

DPW is still investigating the cause of the contamination by conducting leak tests and valve assessments, checking chlorine levels in the water, and researching any construction projects that may have impacted the city's water system, Mitchell said.

Speaking at a press conference Wednesday, Mitchell offered a more detailed timeline of when the initial samples were collected.

As part of routine testing, 19 samples were taken on Friday, Sept. 2. Water from Fire Station 8 at 1503 W. Lafayette Ave. came back positive on Saturday, Sept. 3, which the city reported to the Maryland Department of the Environment, Mitchell said. 

The result prompted officials to conduct additional tests upstream and downstream of the site on Sunday, Sept. 4, at two police stations. Both came back positive.

Mitchell said DPW workers are hoping to finish tests at 90 sites across the city and surrounding counties by the end of Thursday.

According to the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, E. coli is a group of bacteria found in the environment, foods, and intestines of people and animals. The agency said most E. coli are harmless, but others can make you sick.

Some strains can cause diarrhea, while others cause urinary tract infections, respiratory illness, pneumonia, and other illnesses.

On Wednesday, the city distributed bottled water at three locations starting at 9 a.m.:

  • Harlem Park Elementary/Middle School
  • Lansdowne Library
  • Middle Branch Park

Deputy Chief James Wallace, of the Mayor's Office of Emergency Management, said the city has distributed 53,000 gallons of water to residents since Monday.

Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Dr. Letitia Dzirasa said officials are investigating two cases of gastrointestinal illness among people who live in the advisory area in West Baltimore, but it is not yet confirmed if these people have an E. coli infection.

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