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  October 20, 2003

Temporary Problem With Chlorine
Level In Water Being Addressed

Recent tests of water samples from the University's main campus water distribution system, routinely collected by the UConn's Department of Environmental Health and Safety and analyzed by the Connecticut Department of Public Health Laboratory, indicated the presence of "total coliform" bacteria in samples collected on Sept. 22, according to Frank Labato, director of environmental health and safety. Subsequent tests taken two and three days later showed no evidence of the bacteria.

Total coliform bacteria are common in the environment and are generally not harmful themselves. The bacteria were not detected in the Depot Campus water system.

In the Sept. 22 samples, only total coliform bacteria were found, and not other bacteria that present health risks, such as E. coli or fecal coliform bacteria, Labato said. Neither of these bacteria has been detected in the University's water distribution system, and therefore the Department of Public Health has not placed any restrictions or special requirements or preconditions, such as boiling, on its use. The water remains safe for drinking and all other uses.

Total coliform bacteria can appear randomly in both public and private water supply systems. Although not considered a health risk, the state Department of Public Health requires water providers to notify their users any time water tests of systems the size of UConn's indicate the presence of coliform in more samples than allowed.

The presence of these bacteria in drinking water, however, generally is a result of a problem with the water treatment or the pipes that distribute the water, and indicates that the water may be contaminated with other potentially harmful bacteria. The presence of total coliform bacteria in this case was probably due to low chlorine levels.

"As a result of the September tests, we are working with the state Department of Public Health to more closely monitor our chlorination equipment," Labato said. "The University will continue to monitor water quality throughout the system, and will conduct routine water tests, as required by the Department of Public Health."

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets drinking water standards, and has determined that the presence of total coliform is a possible health concern. EPA has set an enforceable drinking water standard for total coliforms to reduce the risk of adverse health effects.

UConn and Connecticut Department of Public Health officials continue to carefully monitor the University's drinking water to ensure its safety and purity. Questions can be addressed to the Department of Environmental Health and Safety between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. at 860.486.3613, or by mail at 3102 Horsebarn Hill Rd., Unit 4097.