Boil-water advisory issued for all of Winnipeg after tests show E. coli presence

Mayor Brian Bowman hopeful that further tests will find results are 'false positives'

Health and city officials issued a boil-water advisory for Winnipeg on Tuesday due to clusters of positive test results involving the presence of E. coli.

“In abundance of caution, and because of our city experts and engineers understanding of the water distribution system, the City of Winnipeg has decided to implement a boil water advisory for the entire city of Winnipeg,” said Mayor Brian Bowman at a press conference shortly before 6 p.m.

All Winnipeg public schools are open Wednesday, but water fountains will be turned off.

Parents are advised to send bottled or boiled water with their children, said Brian O’Leary, superintendent of Seven Oaks School Division and chair of the Metro Winnipeg Superintendents.

The city said the move is just precautionary after six water samples showed the presence of E. coli and coliform at very low levels.

“The precautionary advisory was issued because test results from Monday, January 26, 2015, tested positive for the presence of bacteria in water samples,” said the city in a release.

“Hopefully we will find out that these were false positives tomorrow and very soon thereafter we will be able to lift this notice, but we do need to be cautious,” said Mayor Bowman on Tuesday.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority initially said the advisory only applied to the area of the city east of the Red River.

City officials say the advisory was expanded to the whole city out of an abundance of caution.

While five of the six positive tests were east of the river, one was in the city’s southwest and Bowman said that led the city to expand its warning.

A total of 39 tests were done in this batch, with 33 of them came back negative, including areas directly adjacent to positive tests.

The city said the results showed “very low levels of bacteria.” But the acceptable level is zero.

“There has been no source of contamination identified to date; however, public health is proceeding according to provincial and national guidelines. These guidelines specify to issue the advisory as a precautionary measure, while investigating the possible causes,” said the WRHA.

The city said citizens should use bottled water or tap water that has boiled for one minute, before it cools, for:

  • drinking and making ice
  • preparing beverages, including infant formula
  • preparing food
  • brushing teeth

“It is not necessary to boil tap water used for other household purposes, such as laundry or washing dishes. Adults and older children that are able to avoid swallowing the water can wash, bathe, or shower. Young children should be sponge bathed. If boiling is not feasible, an alternate and safe supply of water should be used; i.e. bottled water,” said the WRHA.

Re-sampling of water is underway and more details are slated for release by the city on Wednesday.

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