Portland is under a massive water alert after the Oregon’s city’s water bureau warned 670,000 to boil the water they drink to avoid a dangerous fecal bacteria.
Authorities say they believe the Oregon city’s water supply was contaminated with either human or animal feces, leading to a potentially dangerous outbreak of the E. coli bacteria.
“We don’t know what is in the fecal matter,” said Kari Salis, regional manager of drinking water services for the Oregon Health Authority. “But you don’t want to consume it because it’s likely to have infectious organisms in it.
To guard against illness, residents are told to boil their water and kill any bacteria inside.
“Boiling water is an inconvenience, but it’s the best way to protect until more information on the extent of contamination is known,” water bureau director David Shaff told reporters.
The water alert affects customers of the Portland Water Bureau and water districts for Burlington, the city of Gresham, Lake Grove, Lorna Portland Water, Palatine Hill, Rockwood, Tigard Water Service Area (including Durham, King City and Bull Mountain), Valley View, and West Slope.
Authorities said water should be boiled for at least a minute, adding that they don’t expect the water to cause any illnesses.
“We think, overall, this is a very cautious approach that we’re taking,” Dr. Paul Lewis, the interim Multnomah County Health Officer. “We think that the risk to the public is very low.”
Human strains of E. coli can cause symptoms including fever, nausea, loss of appetite, and diarrhea.
The Portland water alert extended to Portland State University, which halted sales of drip coffee, fountain drinks, and ice on campus on Friday. Workers were forced to rewash produce with water that had been boiled.
Authorities did not indicate how long the Portland water alert would remain in place.