E. Coli Detected In Long Beach Water System; Boil Water Alert In Effect

June 21, 2019 - 3:00 pm

MINEOLA, N.Y. (WCBS 880) — Long Beach residents are being told to boil their water after the city's water system tested positive for E. coli.

Boiled or bottled water should be used for drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes, and food preparation until further notice, the Nassau County Department of Health said. Any ice made before Friday should be thrown out and ice makers should be turned off.

“The only water that should be consumed is boiled or bottled water. Even if you're brushing your teeth,” warned Nassau County Executive Laura Curran.

The boil water alert will remain in effect until all tests show the water is free of bacteria and safe to consume. Curran notes that chlorine levels in the water have already been raised and officials are flushing out the entire water system.

Health officials are also warning restaurant owners in the area to throw away ice that has already been made and only use bottled water.

There have been no reported illnesses, but symptoms can take several days to appear.

“Most cases of E. coli occur about three to four days after somebody consumes it. It can occur from one to 10 days, but most cases are in the three to four range,” said Health Commission Dr. Lawrence Eisenstein.

The presence of E. coli indicates that the water may be contaminated with human or animal wastes. Most E. coli strains are harmless, but some can cause diarrhea, urinary tract infections, respiratory illness and pneumonia.

Officials are trying to determine the source of the contamination. They note that showering and taking a bath with the water is safe.

The E. coli warning comes during a busy weekend for the town -- there's an annual 5K race that's part of the annual Long Beach Pride weekend. It's the largest such festival on Long Island, and 20,000 to 30,000 people are expected.

"We are priding on in Long Beach all weekend," Lauren Corcoran-Doolin, the vice president of the LGBTQ Network, which runs the parade. "We really have seen no impact, other than just continued enthusiasm the whole time."

Sharon Barkofsky, who is helping organize the race, started her day Saturday by looking for some safe water to drink.

"I had to get in my car and drive around looking for water," she said. 

She found some at City Hall. Long Beach has been distributing 50,000 water bottles to 35,000 residents in the area.