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Water test: 'possible health concern'

WINSTED — Some Winsted residents were surprised to learn this week that the United States Department of Environmental Protection found increased levels of unhealthy bacteria in the town’s drinking water last month and that the town waited nearly two weeks after the initial findings to send letters notifying townspeople of the problem.

In a form letter dated March 23, Winsted Water Works reported to Winsted residents that tests conducted during the month of March indicated a presence of coliform bacteria in excess of drinking water standards.

“This is a violation of drinking water standards and Section 19-13-B102(i) of the Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies, which requires us to notify you of this situation,” the letter noted.

“The Winsted Water Works was notified on 3-10-10 of the presence of total coliform bacteria. On 3-11-10 Winsted Water Works retested at nine locations and all samples tested negative for total coliform bacteria.”

Town resident David LaPointe said Monday that he had just received the letter identifying the problem.

“It’s nice getting the notice, but it’s a month late and a dollar short,” he said. “I think we should get a rebate.”

Reached by phone Monday afternoon, Water Superintendent James McCarthy said the letter to residents was a routine procedure.

“We sample the water and it goes to a lab, which calls us and tells us if we have coliform,” he said. “That’s when we start testing for E. coli [occasionally harmful bacteria often responsible for food poisoning]. Those tests all came back negative, so the situation is basically over with.”

McCarthy said the state of Connecticut requires water departments to notify property owners by mail within 30 days of a positive test for bacteria, but those letters often do not reach every resident, tenant and employee in town. He said if a second test had revealed excess levels of bacteria, the water department would have issued a press release declaring a public health alert.

“If it was a serious problem, people would have known immediately,” he said.

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