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North Fork ordered to boil water after coliform, E. coli detected in system

The community water system in the foothill town of North Fork, seen in July during the Willow fire, was put under a water-boiling order from Madera County March 17, 2016 after coliform and E. coli were detected.
The community water system in the foothill town of North Fork, seen in July during the Willow fire, was put under a water-boiling order from Madera County March 17, 2016 after coliform and E. coli were detected. Fresno Bee file

North Fork’s community water system is under a water-boiling order from Madera County after coliform and E. coli were detected.

Madera County environmental health and public works employees are chlorinating and flushing out the county-operated water system in North Fork and will not know until Saturday whether the process is working.

“If it doesn’t work, we’ll do it all over again,” said Madera County Supervisor Tom Wheeler, who represents the area.

About 70 customers are affected. Businesses or homes on private wells are not affected, said Dexter Marr, deputy interim director for Madera County’s environmental health division. Marr recommended that people with private systems get their water tested, too.

Marr said it’s possible recent heavy rains led to the formation of total coliform and E. coli in the Maintenance District 8 water system.

At this point, he said, it’s not known where the contamination initially occurred.

“Public works is checking all avenues,” Marr said.

Rain water travels into fractured rock in foothill and mountain areas, and under the current drought conditions anything on the ground is washed into granite fractures and into the water system, Marr said. Also, anything that was previously flushed into the rock fractures could reach the system.

“It doesn’t get filtered through soil,” he said.

A routine bacteriological test was positive for total coliform and E. coli late Wednesday, he said. Once the results were confirmed, the county started a notification process and a boil-water notice was sent to all customers.

On Friday, one of five tests returned with positive results for coliform, but no E. coli was detected. Results of tests taken Friday will be available Saturday, Marr said.

Customers were informed how to properly disinfect tap water by either boiling or chlorinating for drinking and cooking purposes. Bottled water is recommended.

“We think just the chlorination should satisfy most of the issue, but we won’t know until we get the samples back” on Saturday, Marr said.

Cheryl Adams, a cashier at Gas ’N Stuff, a convenience store affected by the order, said several restaurants have closed, including the Pizza Factory, Slim’s Koffee Shak and La Cabana.

The order also affects North Fork Market and other commercial and residential properties.

Adams said her store only can sell packaged items and is prohibited from selling fountain drinks.

Marc Benjamin: 559-441-6166, @beebenjamin

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