Bacteria force West Linn schools drinking fountains to dry up

Coliform bacteria detected at Stafford Primary School shuts off water

The water faucets and drinking fountains at Stafford Primary School will be dry during most of this month, according to Stafford Principal Patrick Meigs.

The water system will be undergoing a complete upgrade during the month, especially during spring break.

Meigs was informed March 3 that quarterly tests performed by Coffey Laboratories had detected Total coliform bacteria in three of four test locations. It was the second time in two weeks that Total coliform bacteria had been detected in the Stafford well-water system.

Coliform bacteria are indicator bacteria that are found everywhere in nature, but when found in drinking water systems it usually means that something has happened to the water system.

Of the two types of coliform bacteria - Total and Fecal - only Total was found at Stafford, said School District Facilities Manager Pat McGough.

The district immediately shut off the water to fountains and faucets, leaving it on only in the school's toilets. Bottled water and hand sanitizer is being provided to all staff and students.

The prescribed treatment for Total coliform bacteria is to disinfect the well using a specific chlorine bleach solution, McGough wrote in a notice sent to parents Wednesday.

The school district contracted with a private company to disassemble the well pump and inject the chlorine into the system March 7.

The chlorinated water was then pumped into the system's pipes and allowed to remain there for 72 hours. The system was flushed March 10, and more samples were taken for testing.

Coffey Laboratories reported March 11 that Total coliform was still present in two of four test sites.

That's when the district began a more aggressive approach to cleansing the water system.

Back-flow devices on the irrigation system and the fire pump were tested. The device on the fire pump failed, and was repaired and recertified today (March 13).

In addition, a concrete solution will be injected around the well casing to prevent infiltration of groundwater.

During the spring break (March 24), the well pump will be replaced and the underground pressure tank will be excavated and replaced.

Finally, a new permanent chlorination system will be installed. And then the entire system will be chlorinated, flushed and tested.

McGough said the results of those tests will be made public as soon as the district receives the laboratory report.

In a letter sent Wednesday to Stafford students' parents, Meigs thanked Stafford families for tolerating the inconvenience.

'I wanted to extend my appreciation to families, children and staff,' he wrote, 'for all your patience and flexibility as we continue to work our way through this situation.'