ROCKFORD, Mich. – Rockford is under a boil water advisory after E-coli was found in the city’s water supply. City officials say it was an equipment malfunction at the water treatment plant over the Labor Day Weekend that prompted the advisory. Residents should not drink the watear or wash in it until it has been boiled for at least 20 seconds.
Some schools were scheduled to be closed Thursday, keeping about 2,000 students at home.
The problem, according to City Manager Michael Young, wasn’t confirmed until water tests came back on Wednesday.
Some businesses were also closed. The advisory affects about 2,100 homes in the city along with 400 businesses.
According to the Kent County Health Department, symptoms of E-coli exposure typically take two to four days to develop.
The Rockford school system issued a letter to parents saying they will close the schools that are affected, giving 2,000 students a day off from school on Thursday.
The schools include:
- Meadow Ridge Elementary
- Parkside Elementary
- Valley View Elementary
- North Rockford Middle School
- River Valley Academy
Other schools will be in session as scheduled, and bus routes will run as normal according to letter home to parents.
The problem went unnoticed due to equipment error, Young said. “After the long holiday weekend, we found out that a chlorine pump that would normally be injecting chlorine into the water on an as-needed basis had shut down and a backup alarm that would normally give us a page didn’t signal. So that’s the whole issue that we’re digging into right now.”
The city needs to see two tests to show levels are “back to normal” before lifting the advisory, Young said.
City officials offered free bottles of water on a first come, first served basis. Seven pallets of water were donated by Ice Mountain. The water had to be rationed out at times on Wednesday afternoon and was all gone before nine o’clock.
Some people were worried about possibly being exposed to contaminated water before the notices arrived, and some business owners changed the way they did business for the time being.
The line of people at Rocky’s Ice Cream in downtown Rockford was still long Wednesday night, but because so many other businesses in the area had posted signs that read ‘Closed due to unsafe drinking water,’ most people stayed away.
Still, Rocky’s was one of the few businesses able to ignor an all-out boil water advisory from the city. “We just have a ton of filtered water from Meijer,” said Rocky’s employee Emaleigh Tinessen. “We are just using it to clean our scoops with, and we don’t really use water like restaurants, do so it’s not too hard.”
Some people living at the Richter Place Apartments in Rockford became worried when they got letters from the city about the contaminated water. “I was a little upset and scared to death about what’s going to happen,” said Shirley Heiman. “How sick am I going to be and everything else?”
Heiman was afraid the damage had been done far before the letters arrived warning of the danger. “Everyone here has already had showers and brushed their teeth, drank the water for their pills and medication and everything,” said Heiman.
The city manager said results from testing show up about 24 hours after the water was initially tested. Therefore there was a period of time where people were likely at risk of exposure to the bacteria.