SALT LAKE CITY — A small culinary water system serving less than 40 households in Duchesne County is under a boil advisory after water sampling showed nonchlorinated water was being used and one person fell ill from a microscopic parasite found in feces of infected animals or humans.
The Utah Department of Environmental Quality stressed Friday it does not know if the case of giardia is linked to the contaminated drinking water, but a joint investigation is being carried out with state health officials.
“They were using treated surface water that had not been chlorinated,” said spokesman Jared Mendenhall, adding the agency began taking water samples this week after reports of people getting sick.
The person who was infected with the parasite is recovering and health officials are monitoring the situation, Mendenhall said.
Utah DEQ is working with the Health Department to investigate this case. South Duchesne is taking the following steps:— Utah DEQ (@UtahDEQ) November 8, 2019
Fix all breaks in the system
Re-establish the chlorine residual levels
Check for any cross connections in the system
Continue to take water samples
He added that the agency is not aware of any drinking water contamination case in Utah linked to giardia, which is an organism that lives in the intestine and is passed in feces. According to the Centers for Disease Control, once outside the body, the organism can live for weeks or months.
Symptoms are diarrhea, upset stomach, bloating, gas and dehydration, and can last from two to six weeks.
Kenny Davis, an epidemiologist with the Utah Department of Health, said giardia cases are quite common in Utah, but linked to contact with recreational or agricultural water. This year, he said there has been 161 cases documented by state health officials.
Mendenhall said the Utah Division of Drinking Water will coordinate with the water provider to determine the next steps for public health protection. An investigation will also assess if any violations are warranted.
The division is also involved in a case of lead contamination found in the drinking water of 10 homes served by the Emigration Improvement District. Samples taken in September showed lead levels above 15 parts per billion, which required the district to notify all its customers.
The district is investigating the cause of the lead contamination, which could be linked to old pipes that need retrofitting to current standards.