A second test at Windham Center School revealed no E. coli in the well water there, but traces of another, less harmful bacteria were still evident in the water and will be flushed out over the next few days, according to the school superintendent.
E. coli was discovered in the drinking water Tuesday, prompting the elementary school to provide students with bottled water and modify its lunch menu. School is closed today through the rest of the week and resume next Tuesday, Sept. 2.
Lab tests Tuesday confirmed the presence of E. coli bacteria in school water, but further test results returned Wednesday showed no evidence of E. coli.
Federal and state law requires public schools to test their water every three months. Tests are usually completed before the start of the school year, but since Windham Public Schools started earlier than usual this year, testing ran into the first week of class.
Building and grounds director Wayne Donaldson said the problem is not uncommon.
"[The bacteria] could have come from groundwater entering the well, loose pipe, broken pipe, almost anything," he explained Wednesday.
After the problem was detected Tuesday, the school shut off water fountains and students were provided with bottled water throughout the school day. Officials made changes to the school lunch menu to avoid using water and served meals on paper and plastic.
Garcia and Principal Kathleen Goodwin posted a letter to parents on the school’s Web site on Monday as the new school year was beginning.
“We received preliminary test results of the school’s drinking water that showed traces of E. coli bacteria. E. coli bacteria can potentially make students and staff sick,” the letter said.
“Our priority is that all of our students are safe, healthy and successful at Windham Center School, and we are making every effort to resolve this situation and keep our students learning without disruption."
Dr. Joseph Garner, chief of the Department of Medicine at the Hospital of Central Connecticut, said E. coli is used as a marker to determine whether there is any contamination of the water supply.
The bacteria lives in the intestines of mammals and most types do not cause disease, such as diarrhea and kidney failure, Garner said.
“The presence of E. coli suggests that there may be a leak in a pipe somewhere, some sort of a connection that doesn’t have the integrity it should have and that’s how the bacteria tend to get in, so they will examine their entire system and determine where the E. coli got into the water system, fix that and there won’t be a problem going forward,” Garner said.
Garcia said there have been no reports of sickness associated with the bacteria, and that school officials have had conversations about drilling a second well.