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E. Coli Bacteria Found in Cistern at Four Winds Plaza

July 15, 2005 – Four Winds Plaza switched from its cistern water to a V.I. Water and Power Authority potable water line Friday after the Department of Planning and Natural Resources issued an advisory noting that the shopping center's cistern is contaminated with fecal coliform and E. coli bacteria.
"All tenants and patrons can be assured there is no concern about the water," the shopping center's attorney, Eli Dulitz, said late Friday afternoon.
DPNR Commissioner Dean Plaskett said in a news release issued Friday that Four Winds Plaza Corp. was issued a cease and desist order to stop it from distributing water from its cistern.
Arron Hutchins, director of the Environmental Protection Division at DPNR, said the department investigated after one of the Four Winds tenants complained about dirty and smelly water.
He said that on July 8 samples were taken for testing at a local independent laboratory. He said Four Winds was notified Thursday.
He did not know when DPNR got the results but said it was most likely just a short time before Four Winds received the notice.
Hutchins said before Dulitz was reached that unless Four Winds decides to hook up to the V.I. Water and Power Authority potable water line to supply its tenants, the cistern water will have to be re-tested before the shopping center can resume distribution.
One tenant, who did not want his name or the store where he worked revealed, said Friday morning he hadn't heard about the bacterial problem until being told by a reporter.
He said Four Winds staff delivered some water on Friday, telling him that they were going to turn off the water.
"They said they had to do maintenance," he said.
The anonymous tenant said his store uses a "bubbler" for drinking water, only using the shopping center's water for toilet flushing.
Hutchins said the problem's source was not identified.
DPNR's press release indicates that bacterial contamination is a result of a problem with water treatment or with the pipes that distribute the water.
Dulitz would not comment when asked if Four Winds had a water testing program in place or planned to implement one as a result of the current problem.
A biologist, who did not want to be identified, said that fecal coliform and E. coli can come from numerous sources, including broken sewer lines.
However, Hutchins said the source usually turns out to be "bird poop or rat poop" on the roof, which collects rainwater for the cistern.
The biologist said that safe water standards do not allow any fecal coliform or E. coli in the water, adding, "But E. coli indicates a much more serious problem."
Hutchins said Four Winds cistern contains about 500,000 gallons of water and serves 30 tenants. Hutchins said some other tenants get their water from WAPA lines.
People who drink water contaminated with fecal coliform and E. coli may suffer from diarrhea, cramps, nausea, and possibly jaundice that comes along with headaches and fatigue. Plaskett noted that these symptoms may also be caused by other factors.
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