E. coli is a fecal indicator, and it was detected in the well water for the Great Barrington water system. 

UPDATE: Officials with the town's chief water supplier said Sunday afternoon that the boil order issued Friday has been lifted

GREAT BARRINGTON — The town’s fire district has issued a boil-water notice for all customers of the town's water system.

“On Friday, July 23, 2021, our water system was notified that a water sample collected on Thursday, July 22, from our groundwater source tested positive for E. coli, which is a fecal indicator,” the notice reads. “Fecal indicators are used to detect groundwater sources that may be susceptible to fecal contamination which may contain harmful viruses or bacteria.”

The system disinfects with chlorine, and samples collected from the post-treatment, point of entry location, storage locations and the locations within the distribution system, including the first customer, did not contain any E. coli or total coliform bacteria.

As the testing from groundwater sources and evaluations of the water system operation continue, officials are advising customers to “boil the water prior to consumption to reduce any potential risk of exposure to bacterial or viral contamination, until further notice.”

E. coli is a fecal indicator, and it was detected in the well water for the system. Because a fecal indicator was detected  there, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires the fire district to provide customers with this notice.

“Fecal indicators are microbes whose presence indicates that the water may be contaminated with human or animal wastes,” the notice reads. “Microbes in these wastes can cause diarrhea, cramps, nausea, headaches, or other symptoms. They may pose a special health risk for infants, young children, some of the elderly, and people with severely compromised immune systems.”

If anyone experiences any of those symptoms and they persist, or, if there are any specific health concerns, consult a doctor. General guidelines on ways to lessen the risk of infection by microbes are available from the EPA Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791.

“While we continue to evaluate the situation and wait for the results of additional sampling to determine if the risk of contamination has been removed, we are inspecting our source to look for signs of contamination,” according to the notice. “We are in contact with [the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection] who is evaluating the actions we are taking to ensure safe water is being delivered to you. We anticipate resolving the problem as soon as possible and will inform you when you no longer need to boil your water.”

For more information, contact Peter Marks, certified operator, at 413-329-1919 or the Great Barrington Fire District, 17 East St., Great Barrington, MA, 01230.

According to the notice:

• Do not drink the water without boiling it first. Bring all water to a rolling boil and let it boil for at least one minute, or use bottled water. You can cool the boiled water before using it. Boiled or bottled water should be used for drinking, making ice, food preparation, brushing teeth and washing dishes until further notice. Boiling kills bacteria and other organisms in the water.

• Discard all ice, beverages, uncooked foods and formula made with tap water collected on or after Thursday.

• Food establishments must follow Massachusetts Department of Public Health procedures and the direction of their local board of health.

Residents are asked to share this information with others who drink this water, especially those who might not have received the notice directly.

Scott Stafford can be reached at sstafford@berkshireeagle.com or at 413-629-4517.