Barrington E.coli scare closes downtown eateries

(Hannah Shirley) Fuel closed after the boil water mandate was issued.

GREAT BARRINGTON — A boil-water mandate closed several downtown eateries and led to a temporary caffeine shortage last week.

Great Barrington Fire District issued an alert on the afternoon Wednesday, April 10, urging all water users in Great Barrington to boil water after a water sample collected on the previous day from the town’s source water tap tested positive for E.coli. Out of the 10 samples collected, only one came back positive for E.coli bacteria — the untreated “source water” at the Green River Pump Station. The other nine samples were post-treated and showed no total coliform or E.coli bacteria.

This was the first time a test for E.coli, a fecal indicator, has ever come back positive, said Cynthia Ullrich, clerk for the Great Barrington Fire District. Its presence was detected in the fire district’s spring water for its system, she said.

Fecal indicators are microbes whose presence indicates that the water may be contaminated with human or animal waste, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Microbes in these wastes may cause symptoms like diarrhea, cramps, nausea and headaches. According to the release issued by the fire district, microbes may pose a special health risk for infants, young children, some of the elderly and people with severely compromised health symptoms.

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