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E. coli contamination spurs boil-water order to 25,000 Rhode Island residents

PROVIDENCE, R.I.Some Rhode Island residents should boil their water before drinking, cooking with it or brushing their teeth, local health officials said Sunday.

A boil-water order has been issued to 25,000 customers of the Kent County Water Authority after tests found E. coli bacteria contamination in a storage tank.

E. coli comes from human and animal feces.

It can enter water supplies during rainfalls, snow melts and other types of precipitation if creeks, rivers, streams, lakes, or other waters are used as sources of drinking water and the water is not treated adequately, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says.

During rainfalls, snow melts, or other types of precipitation, E. coli may be washed into creeks, rivers, streams, lakes, or ground water. When these waters are used as sources of drinking water and the water is not treated or inadequately treated, E. coli may end up in drinking water.

Of the hundreds of strains of E. coli, one strain is most commonly associated with illness, E. coli O157:H7. While most other E. coli strains are harmless, the 0157:H7 strain produces a toxin that can cause severe bloody diarrhea and abdominal cramps and in rare cases, kidney complications.

The boil-water order affects customers in Cranston, Coventry, Warwick, West Warwick, East Greenwich and some in North Kingstown and West Greenwich, The Providence Journal reported.

Residents are being asked to boil water vigorously for at least one minute before using it. Customers also are advised to not bathe infants and young children in the water, because they may swallow some.

The authority says it's the first time in more than 25 years there's been an E. coli contamination in the drinking water supply.

Health Director Michael Fine tells WPRO-AM the order will be in place until at least Thursday.

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