Source of Meeker water contamination still a mystery

originally posted on June 11, 2016


After more than two months of struggling to eliminate a water contamination at Meeker Elementary School, the Ames School District cut into the new school’s water pipes in hopes of finding the bacteria source of the problem, but district officials say they didn’t find what they expected.

“I was really hoping we would find the source,” said Gerry Peters, director of facilities planning and management.

Peters said they had isolated an area of the pipe where they suspected the source of the contamination might be, but they didn’t find anything. Now with the pipes open, he is moving forward with sanitizing the pipes, which seems to be producing favorable results after initial water testing.

The bacteria total coliform was first discovered at the school during a routine water quality sampling on March 30. While it was low level of bacteria, two staff restrooms, a drinking fountain and the art room tested positive for total coliform. The rest of the school tested negative for the bacteria but students and staff drank bottled water through the end of the school year as a precaution.

Water and pollution control director John Dunn with the city has previously said total coliform is not going to make people sick and the test did not include e. Coli, indicating the contamination is not a sewage problem.

Since first discovering the contamination, Peters said they have chlorinated the pipes as least a dozen times. Peters said typically chlorination is successful at eliminating the bacteria but said it can be a complex problem so sometimes the chlorine is unsuccessful.

“It has been a great learning experience,” Peters said.

He said he has reached out to anyone and everyone to try and tap into their knowledge on how to resolve the issue and said he hasn’t found anyone that has dealt with this problem any differently.

Although it is still unclear when the contamination will be fully resolved, Peters said he hopes it will be “as soon as possible.”

“I’ve devoted a lot of time to this,” he said.

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