E coli has been detected in multiple locations across Baltimore in recent days, city officials have announced.
Residents have been urged to boil tap water for at least a minute after E coli samples were detected in West Baltimore over the weekend. Since then, over 1,500 people in the city of around 600,000 have been affected by the advisory, including multiple schools.
“The health and safety of our residents is of the utmost importance,” Baltimore health department director Letitia Dzirasa said at a press conference alongside city leaders on Monday night. “Our key recommendation from a public health standpoint is to boil water for at least one minute. We know that boiling water kills bacteria, as well as other viruses.”
According to the city’s public works department, 360 water samples have been taken from 90 locations across the city, with E coli being found in several locations.
In a notice to residents, the department said its “team is flushing the system continuously and performing leak detection, valve assessment, and increasing the chlorination in the area”.
“Baltimore City Fire, Police, Office of Emergency Management and the Maryland Department of the Environment have been notified, have been provided representatives, and are engaged with DPW,” it added.
The Maryland environment department said on Tuesday its engineers were inspecting the city’s distribution systems, treatment systems, pumping facilities and other infrastructure.
Speaking to WMAR 2 News, local resident Ianthia Darden said: “They just asked us, from what I gathered, not to bathe, not to drink the water, and if you do, to boil the water before you use it for anything.”
The public works department has provided a gallon of water to each household, totalling 1,700 gallons handed out on Monday alone.
Baltimore mayor Brandon Scott said: “Although this is limited to a specific area and thankfully not citywide, we are absolutely taking this matter very seriously and understand the concerns of all residents at this time, especially when communities in cities in other parts of our country have recently had water challenges.”
Other cities across the US have been experiencing similar water contamination crises. Earlier this week, New York City’s East Village was found to contain high levels of arsenic in its water systems, forcing thousands of residents to use water bottles and potable water stations.
Meanwhile, in Jackson, Mississippi, the entire city has lost access to running water as a result of mass flooding.