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Double whammy: fire, bad H2O hit Midway

25 homes use well that has a trace of coliform

MIDWAY — Dealing with smoky skies and worrying about the nearby Cascade Springs "controlled" fire haven't been the only concerns for some Midway residents.

One neighborhood was forced to boil and sanitize its water because the area's well supply tested positive for fecal matter last week.

A preliminary testing by local public works officials revealed a coliform count of 35 milligrams per liter in the well used by the Swiss Alpenhoff community — about 25 homes on the western Wasatch County mountain foothills. A second test found three milligrams.

The maximum allowable amount of the contaminating bacteria that's similar to E. coli?

Zero.

Depending on an individual's tolerance levels, even one coliform can potentially make somebody sick. No illnesses had been officially reported in Midway as of Saturday, though.

"They're on a boil order right now," said Don Young, Midway's public works director. "It'll last until we get results back saying the water's safe to drink. If I was living there I'd be very concerned."

But, he added, the Public Works Department has made resolving the matter its "top priority." It installed a chlorinator to help sanitize the water until it can be determined what was responsible for the fecal infection and until further testing proves that the levels are safe again. A Utah County laboratory is testing a third sample.

"The total coliforms have gone way down," Young said. "We're hoping tests on Monday will be negative."

The cause and culprit, likely feces from a warm-blooded mammal, remain a mystery. A few homes above the well have septic tanks, but the county health department told Young that that didn't seem to be the problem.

"I've been looking and looking," he said, "and everything around there appears to be clean."

One thing Young's certain about: The fire and fecal-infected water supply are not related, despite rumors to the contrary. The water was tested on Monday, prior to the prescribed 600-acre burn.

"I've had that question asked," he said. "But the fire has nothing to do with it."

A Midway water source also initially tested positive for coliform a year ago. A resampling test, however, revealed negative results. The city tests its water monthly.


E-mail: jody@desnews.com