Columbus residents: City took too long to issue water boil order

Columbus, Ind., utility director Keith Reeves. (WISH Photo)

COLUMBUS, Ind. (WISH) — Some Columbus residents are upset by what they say was a delay in the city warning them about E.coli in the water.

It took hours for them to know the city was under a boil order last week.

A couple dozen Columbus residents gathered Tuesday night to get their answers on why there were delays in the notification that E.coli was tested in their water.

The good news is the city says no one was infected and the water is clean, but residents say they are concerned about the chaos Friday night when they learned about it, because if this happened again it could have been far worse.

Last week’s fears washed away in Columbus on Tuesday night. City utility director Keith Reeves said E.coli detected was only in raw water, in a well that remains shut down. E.coli is caused by feces in water and can lead to infections, kidney failure and even death. It caused fear during Friday’s boil order. It ended after 24 hours, but residents say they weren’t notified quickly.

Reeves said improvements are to be made but reached out to public health and safety agencies within a couple hours — except one: the Bartholomew County Emergency Management Office.

“Our main purpose is emergency planning and notification,” said Shannan Hinton, the office’s director.

They help run Everbridge, the free emergency alert system in Bartholomew County for thousands of residents to get texts, phone calls and emails on severe weather to boil orders.

Hinton saw the news on social media and had to call Reeves several hours later.

“It’s definitely a concern I want to know right away,” she said.

Residents didn’t get their alert until 8 p.m.

“We’re paying for this water. Is that fair for us the paying customers?” asked Nancy Ray, a resident in Columbus.

It was five hours after the boil order. We asked Reeves why that happened.

“Forgot. I don’t have an answer to that. They were helpful and got back to me and they weren’t included in the original bulletin,” he said.

WISH-TV responded, asking how he could forget about a department that helps alert thousands of residents about emergencies.

“I can’t answer your question,” he responded. “As I said we will be evaluating the process and we’ll answer that later.”

Hinton said she hopes to have answers sooner rather than later.

The first E.coli positive test came Thursday night. Residents wanted to know why they found out nearly 24 hours later. City officials said state law requires you to verify the first test, which took about 24 hours.

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