Windham Center School Closed Wednesday Due to E. Coli

The school will remain closed until next Tuesday at the earliest.

E. coli bacteria has been found in drinking water at Windham Center School in Windham as the new school year begins, prompting officials to close the school Wednesday.

Windham Supt. Patricia Garcia said the school is supplied with well water. The problem is limited to the Windham Center School, which serves about 300 students.

Lab tests conducted Tuesday confirmed the presence of E. coli bacteria in school water. School officials plan to flush the system with chlorine tomorrow and re-test the water Friday.

If all goes well, the school will reopen Sept. 2.

Board of Education Chair Tracy Lambert said officials are considering the possibility of busing in water if Friday's test results also come back positive, or sending students to other schools in the area while the problem is resolved.

"We'll have to come up with a game plan," she said.

Lambert said parents will be notified as soon as the school district receives Friday's test results.

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.

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