CITY OF MORENCI STATEMENT ON POSITIVE E.COLI SAMPLE
On January 6, 2021, around 4:00 p.m. the City of Morenci Department of Public Works (DPW) responded immediately to an incident on Hammontree Drive to protect the health and safety of its residents. After responding, it was found that a contractor mistakenly tore a two (2) inch water lateral off of the City of Morenci’s 12-inch water main – this incident likely caused contamination due to a backflow of water into the main. Personnel from the City of Morenci isolated the water line break by shutting the water off at Hammontree Drive near the laundromat and then at a valve near Hammontree Drive and Skyline Industrial Drive. This caused a loss of water pressure for three (3) marihuana growing facilities and the laundromat.
As this was isolated to the four (4) places that lost water pressure, the City of Morenci advised those places out of caution to boil water until such time that a result from a bacteriological sample could come back (it is required that two  bacteriological samples be taken of the affected area after a loss of water pressure – taken on consecutive days from one (1) another). A city-wide notice was not required at this time since this was an isolated incident in the Skyline Industrial Park.
A bacteriological sample was taken at approximately 6:00 p.m. from 575 Hammontree Drive that evening, which was downstream from the water line break, and taken to the laboratory at the Village of Blissfield for analysis of total coliform and E. coli. It is a 24-hour period from the sample time to the results being realized due to the timeframe for which the test must sit in an incubator to ensure that bacteria growth is not occurring.
Unfortunately, at 7:15 p.m. on January 7, 2021, City of Morenci personnel, upon taking a second required sample to the laboratory at the Village of Blissfield, learned that the sample taken on January 6, 2021 had tested positive for E. coli.
Upon learning of the positive sample, City of Morenci personnel held a conference call to come up with a plan on how to inform the public, deal with the issue immediately, and look out for the residents of the community. The plan included the following:
- Immediately issue an Advisory Boil Water Order Notice for the entire community, even though this issue was segregated to the Skyline Industrial Park (state law provides notice to be given within 24 hours of notification of the positive result with the affected area determined by the municipality);
- Start an immediate hydrant flush of the southeast portion of the City of Morenci – Main Street and to the south of it and to the east of Bean Creek;
- Increase the chlorine dosage at the Water Treatment Plant to obtain a chlorine residual around 1.50 and 2.00 mg/l in the affected area; and
- Draft a bacteriological sampling plan to be conducted the morning of January 8, 2021.
It should be noted that the City of Morenci is required to conduct bacteriological sampling once a month of four (4) locations in the City of Morenci. Those locations are Well #1 at the Water Treatment Plant, Well #2 at the Water Treatment Plant, 597 W. Chestnut Street (DPW Facility), and 118 Orchard Street (Morenci City Offices). Bacteriological sampling had occurred the morning and afternoon of January 6, 2021 just prior to the water line break. All four (4) sites sampled at that time were negative for total coliform and E. coli. The four (4) locations are called the routine sampling points.
The City of Morenci went ahead and conducted the hydrant flush the night of January 7, 2021 and into the morning of January 8, 2021. This consisted of flushing approximately 200,000 gallons of water through the distribution system. This flush allowed City of Morenci personnel to obtain a 1.50 mg/l to 2.00 mg/l chlorine residual in the affected area. A 1.50 mg/l chlorine residual is considered to have high efficacy in killing off E. coli in the water system.
In addition to that, the City of Morenci conducted bacteriological sampling of ten (10) locations in the City of Morenci the morning of January 8, 2021. The locations chosen, include the following:
- 118 Orchard Street (Morenci City Offices)
- 13013 Sims Hwy (Morenci Area EMS)
- 788 E. Coomer Street (Morenci Area Schools High School)
- 517 E. Locust Street (Morenci Area Schools Elementary School)
- 575 Hammontree Drive
- 520 Hammontree Drive
- 1092 E. Main Street
- Well #1 at the Water Treatment Plant
- Well #2 at the Water Treatment Plant
- 597 W. Chestnut Street (DPW Facility)
Those samples have been delivered to the laboratory at the Village of Blissfield for analysis. Results of those analysis will be delivered to the City of Morenci around noon on Saturday, January 9, 2021. If the samples come back negative, the City of Morenci will be lifting the Advisory Boil Water Order Notice.
It should be noted that a sample from 575 Hammontree Drive that was taken on January 7, 2021 is still in incubation at the Village of Blissfield’s laboratory. The sample has five (5) hours of processing left, but is, so far, negative for total coliform and E. coli.
The City of Morenci plans to continue to keep you updated as to the results of these bacteriological samples. As soon as information is gained from the laboratory, the public will be informed. Your understanding is appreciated.