Eight out of 10 water samples taken from the Forbes building July 29 came back clean after pipes had soaked in a strong chlorine solution for 36 hours. That's some relief for the employees in the college of agriculture who work in the Forbes building, but it is only temporary good news for Al Tarcola, Director of Facilities Management.
"We have killed most of the bacteria this time, but we can't be satisfied until all of it is gone for good," Tarcola said.
Because of the age of the building, Tarcola said, there are a number of "dead legs" or pieces of plumbing that were capped off during some renovation and don't go anywhere. Once bacteria
takes hold in a dead leg, it is difficult to kill completely because chlorinated water doesn't
actually run through it, and may not get to the end of the capped pipe.
The weekend of July 31 and Aug. 1, crews of workers installed back flow preventers and new valves in the Forbes building. This will allow Facilities Management to isolate the building into three zones, and proceed to remove dead legs one zone at a time and test the water in each zone to determine which ones have remaining bacteria. While this work is going on, the water in the building will be lightly chlorinated to prevent bacteria from taking hold again, and bottled drinking water will be provided until there is no remaining bacteria.
"Until the bacteria is eradicated, I'm not going to stop," Tarcola said.
The residents of Forbes Building and McKale Center were notified July 23 not to drink from the water fountains or take showers in the buildings due to higher than acceptable levels of coliform bacteria according to Bill A. Witschi, water systems manager for the UA.
By 8 a.m., on July 23, supplies of bottled drinking water had been delivered to both buildings.
Coliform bacteria are not pathogenic, and are only mildly infectious. Coliforms are common in the environment and are generally not harmful in themselves. They are a natural part of
the microbiology of the intestinal tract of warm-blooded mammals, and can also be found in soil, other animals, and insects. Symptoms of high coliforms in the water are diarrhea, cramps, nausea and vomiting, jaundice and associated headache and fatigue. These symptoms can also be caused by a number of factors other than drinking water, according to the EPA.
Drinking water quality in UA buildings is monitored every two weeks. Water in both buildings tested clean on July 6, but by July 19, each had positive readings for coliform.
Additional sites in both buildings were immediately retested, and the positive readings were confirmed late July 22.
Pipes in both buildings were super-chlorinated over the weekend to kill the bacteria according to Al Tarcola, director of Facilities Management. All laboratory apparatus or specialized equipment were disconnected from the Forbes building and McKale Center, because the high chlorine levels used over the weekend to disinfect the Forbes building and McKale Center tap water piping could damage equipment. On July 26, new water samples were taken.
Water in the McKale Center was deemed safe July 27, but seven sites at the Forbes Building still had coliform bacteria in its water.
Tarcola then super-chlorinated the Forbes Building again on on July 27 and flushed the system on July 29.