Creepy Crawler Alert: Wash Fruits and Veggies Well

Water alert is lifted in some towns, but use boiling water to clear fruits, veggies

Creepy crawlers, known in the world of science as "copepods" and "rotifers," were found in the water supply of several Connecticut towns and anyone who bought fresh produce or fruit should clean it with boiled water,. 

The boil water alert has been lifted in East Hartford, Glastonbury, Portland, South Windsor and the 12 homes that were affected in Manchester.  The warning is still in effect Friday for Hartford, West Hartford, Bloomfield, Windsor and parts of East Granby and Windsor Locks, where there are MDC water customers.

Copepods and rotifers are usually found in raw water, but not clean treated water.

Anyone who bought raw fruits and vegetables at stores in any of the 10 communities that were notified to boil drinking water, should wash the produce with water they boiled at home, the Department of Consumer Protection advises.

Most grocery stores mist their produce with water to prevent premature wilting, so the produce might carry bacteria on its surface. 

“Despite the change in status, residents in any of the 10 original communities who bought produce this week should either thoroughly cook or re-wash the items before eating them, using boiled water,” Jerry Farrell, Commissioner of the Department of Consumer Protection said. “My inspectors are contacting the supermarkets in the ten areas to ensure that they are aware of the risk and take appropriate steps.”

Tests taken Wednesday night showed no live organisms in any of the communities under the boil water advisory.

"They're more a nuisance and aesthetically displeasing, but not harmful to your health," Stephan Pratt, of the Metropolitan District Commission, said.

MDC officials said the boil water advisory could last through the weekend as a precautionary measure.

"We think the eggs passed through filters during the start/stop situation with the filtration plant," Pratt said.

It’s a first for Connecticut and it’s turning a few stomachs.

"I would really feel sick. It’s not something I would want to see in my water," Heather Brzezski, of Bloomfield, said.

MDC is already taking steps to fix the problem. They’ve upped the levels chlorine and are working with the Department of Public Health to flush the system.

They say it OK to take a shower and brush your teeth and that the boil water notice is nothing more than a precaution.

"The likelihood the organism is even going to be present while you're brushing your teeth or washing dishes is slim to none," Pratt said.

The water problems affected businesses in the surrounding area Thursday. 

A.C. Petersen in West Hartford stocked up on bottled water for customers and to use for food preparation.

"Even making pancakes, we have to use bottled water, and this morning before we had the bottled water, we were boiling water," Bill Denton, owner of AC Petersen said.

Conard High School in West Hartford covered the drinking fountains, threw out ice and have bottled water to hand out. The school district changed menus to avoid fresh fruits and vegetables.

At grocery stores like Walbaum's, customers stocked up.

"I have a family of four, so brushing teeth, eating, I'm renovating my kitchen too so I can't boil anything on the stove," Scott Ivans, of West Hartford, said.

In Hartford, hospitals took precautions Thursday.

The pipes supplying water to St. Francis Hospital are hooked into MDC, so the hospital covered drinking fountains and posted signs in patient rooms. They also brought in more than 2,000 gallons of bottled water to serve patients, staff, and visitors.

"Everybody is extremely pleased with the service and the amount of water they're getting.  We're just waiting now for MDC and DPH to give us the all clear," Robert Falaguerra, vice president of St. Francis Hospital said.

For the latest from water officials on the boil water advisory, visit the MDC's Web site.

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