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Archaic communications delay Globe water alert

Posted: Wednesday, Sep 26th, 2012

Globe — The major concern at the Globe Council meeting Monday was that a test administered Sept 20, indicated fecal indicators E. Coli in the City of Globe’s Well #1. The results were received by the city at 9 a.m. The pump at that well has been turned off and will not be used until all issues are resolved. The city then began informing various institutions such as schools, hospitals, and other areas where large groups of people could be informed.

However, it wasn’t until noon that local radio station KQSS was alerted with the news. KQSS has spent thousands of dollars to provide the technology and spent many hours training personnel on their Emergency Alert Broadcasting System (EABS) for just this sort of situation. According to “Big John” who works for the station, and was at Monday’s meeting, his station received a fax at noon. He immediately made a tape to be run as often as possible. Had emergency procedure been followed, the city would have called the county and the county would have verified the information and then sent it through the EABS. Within minutes, the warning, in the county’s wording, would have immediately broken through any program on the radio.

The county also has an emergency broadcasting system for the television. Many of you have probably been watching programs on television when the alert sounds and the county does a test to see if the system is working properly. This communication technology was not used. Instead the phone was used, which included texting and twitter. Some people heard it first through Facebook. Interim City Manager Seelhammer said the staff spent much of the day stuffing envelopes sent out late Monday to 3,400 households warning people to boil water before using it.

Rick Barela, a Globe resident who owns apartments rented by several elderly people, said they were calling him to find out what to do. He told that council that elderly people are not into the social media, and were hearing it only by word of mouth at first then finally on the radio. He suggested the council “find a better way to get the word out.”

Seelhammer said they followed guidelines for communications set out by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and they have followed protocol set out by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Ground Water Rule as to testing and follow-up.

What is being done now? Seelhammer said that a group called Range Riders will be coming to help the city with procedures. When Councilman Mike Humphries and Mayor Wheeler were asked after the meeting about this group, Humphries replied that it is a team of experts who troubleshoot for rural entities, free of charge, to solve the problem. Humphries also explained that the water is always disinfected before it goes into the system and the water is tested at the well, before it goes into the system.

Although people are nervous, and rightly so, there is also the possibility the negative test could simply be the result of human error; a test not administered correctly or something wrong with the equipment.

In the meantime, residents using City of Globe water should bring all water to a rolling boil for at least one minute and let it cool before using. Boiling kills any bacteria and other organisms in the water. Use this boiled water for drinking, making ice, preparing food, brushing teeth, washing dishes or watering pets. Those with compromised immune systems, or those who are very young or elderly, may be at increased risk and should seek advice from their health care providers. Residents can also call the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline, 800-426-4791. Keep listening to your local radio stations for further updates.

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