I-Team Update: What's in the water?

Published: Jun. 12, 2014 at 3:25 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 27, 2014 at 7:18 PM CDT
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CAPE GIRARDEAU COUNTY, MO (KFVS) - Clean water is something most of us take for granted. However, in one Cape Girardeau County neighborhood it was a constant concern.

The Department of Natural Resources wanted home and business owners in the Hillcrest Subdivision to know, the water wasn't safe.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources lifted the mandatory boil water order for the Brandco Utilities, Public Water System that serves the Hillcrest Manor Subdivision on Highway K in Cape Girardeau County.

It was issued on May 30 after E.Coli bacteria were found in the water supply on May 27.

The boil water was lifted on Friday, June 27 after no coliform bacteria were found in water samples taken on June 18, 19 and 23.

Additionally, the DNR said steps were taken by the water supply officials to prevent the recurrence of coliform bacteria in the water supply. Tests for chlorine residual have shown that an acceptable level is available in the distribution system.

In the month that the boil order was in place, residents turned on the tap at their own risk.

"You go get a glass of water and go...uh oh," said Scott Wilkins-Hillcrest homeowner. "We just have to drive up and down the road to see signs," said Brandon Dubois, Hillcrest homeowner.

There were makeshift signs throughout the community alerting homeowners about the boil order notice.

"It's almost like a normal thing now, but shouldn't be normal," said Wilkins.

Roy Davault moved to the subdivision back in 1979. As for how long he dealt with water woes?

"Off and on since 1980," said Davault.

Davault's proud of his neighborhood and liked to do his part by mowing to keep the front entrance looking nice. In return, he's only asking for clean water.

"That's all I want is water, and for it to be fixed," said Davault.

The subdivision is on a well system, currently owned by Brandco Investments. The owner, Bob Brandon, told Heartland News that he is in poor health and just can't handle the responsibility any longer. He said he is ready to sell.

The president of the homeowner's association at Hillcrest believes that is the right move.

"Yes, I believe it is," said Bill Boyer, president of the Hillcrest Homeowner's Association.

The problems in the past mainly dealt with water pressure, little to sometimes no pressure at all.

"The storage capacity is not sufficient for what homeowners we have out here," said Boyer. The subdivision currently has more than 200 homeowners, and Boyer says it continues to grow. Therefore the water storage problem will only get worse.

However, the big concern right now is water quality. The owner of the water system said he's required by law to test the water monthly.

Recent tests showed concerns. The Department of Natural Resources was investigating. Tests from the DNR showed coliform bacteria in several locations, and even more alarming were the positive E.Coli results.

"This is quite serious issue," said Alex Patel, manager of the Route K One-Stop. The manager of the Route K One-Stop is tired of the repeated boil orders. "I would say this is the fourth time in five months," said Patel. He can't sell fountain drinks, saying that costs him between $200 and $300 a day. "It hurts my business, my business going somewhere else," said Patel.

Heartland News conducted its own tests, and used the same lab the DNR uses. Sample one was from a home in the subdivision.

We followed protocol, sterilizing, then collecting after letting the water run. Sample two came from the Route K One-Stop.

Twenty four hours later, we had the results.

The sample at the house, passed. The sample at the gas station, failed, showing unsatisfactory levels of bacteria.

"I hope someone can take care of this and it doesn't happen again," said Patel.

The owner of the water and sewer system said he is currently in talks with a St. Louis company that is looking to take over.

"With the fresh blood that's coming and the money that can be put into the system and upgraded, I think the homeowners out there will be satisfied," said Bill Boyer.

Scott Wilkins hopes so. He had just filled up his pool, and wondered what was in the water.

"Don't know what the issue is, but I want to know what it is and get it taken care of," said Wilkins.

The DNR reported coliform bacteria were also found in follow-up samples taken by department officials on May 29. Samples taken on June 9, according to the DNR, had coliform bacteria present and a sample taken on that date had E.Coli bacteria present.

The Department of Natural Resources suggested the public do the following: Boil water vigorously for three minutes prior to use for cooking or drinking. Disinfect food contact surfaces and dishes by immersing them for at least one minute in clean tap water that contains one teaspoon of unscented household bleach per gallon of water. Dispose of ice cubes and remake with water that has been boiled. Continue boiling all water that is to be used for cooking or drinking until the boil water order has been lifted.

The DNR said the investigation into the cause is ongoing. The owner of Brandco Utilities, Bob Brandon, said he is also currently conducting his own investigation to try and pinpoint the cause.

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