Boil order lifted; Pawhuska school starts

Staff Writer
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

The city of Pawhuska’s water supply has been pronounced safe for human consumption following an investigation of possible E. coli contamination.

An emergency boil order had been in effect since late Friday afternoon after the potentially-harmful bacteria was detected by a test of the local water supply. The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality lifted the water restrictions around 8 p.m. Tuesday, officials said.

Water users were advised to run tap water for a couple of minutes before resuming regular use. Local consumers also were reminded to dispose of any ice which might have been made from water produced during or prior to the boil order.

First day of classes for Pawhuska Public Schools was postponed from Wednesday to Thursday as a result of the water problems.

The source of the E. coli contamination is not known. Officials said the lone positive test for the bacteria may have been caused by a “sampling error.”

“It appears there were issues with the sampling techniques that were implemented to collect samples in Pawhuska,” DEQ spokeswoman Erin Hatfield said Wednesday. “However, we are not 100 percent certain of that.

“Sometimes, it is impossible to know the exact cause,” Hatfield added.

Although dozens of tests that have been conducted on the local water during the past week, only one — conducted Aug. 10 at the Pawhuska Fire Department — revealed E. coli, officials said.

In addition to city water users, the emergency boil order had also affected customers of Osage County Rural Water District #18 (Evergreen), DEQ’s Skylar McElhaney said.

DEQ is responsible for regulating more than 1,600 public water supplies in the state. McElhaney said all public water suppliers are required to regularly submit samples to the department for routine testing. The tests ensure that water is safe for human consumption, the state official added.