Photo by Ricky Romero, via Flickr

Parts of Baltimore City and Baltimore County are under boil water advisories, and the jurisdictions are distributing clean water to residents and businesses, after water collected in West Baltimore tested positive for E. coli bacteria contamination.

How to obtain safe water

Baltimore City Health Commissioner Letitia Dzirasa on Monday advised West Baltimore residents and businesses to boil faucet water for at least one minute and let it cool before drinking it, brushing teeth, washing or preparing food, preparing baby food and formula, making ice, using for pets’ drinking water, or washing dishes.

Showering and washing clothes with faucet water is safe as long as individuals are not ingesting the water, Dzirasa said.

Starting at 11 a.m. Tuesday, the Department of Public Works started giving out water at Harlem Park Elementary/Middle School (1401 W. Lafayette Ave.), Middle Branch Park (3301 Waterview Ave.) and Lansdowne Library (500 3rd Ave.).

The distribution sites are limiting water to three gallons per household.

Water buffalos were also set up at the Lansdowne Library and Middle Branch Park locations. Although DPW will provide jugs, they are encouraging people to bring their own containers.

Baltimore County issued its own boil water advisory Tuesday for parts of Southwestern Baltimore County, including residents in Arbutus, Halethorpe and Lansdowne.

The county will distribute bottled water from 3-8 p.m. Tuesday at Fire Station 5, located at 4501 Washington Blvd. in Halethorpe.

Affected area

DPW released an interactive map of the parts of West Baltimore that are under a water boil advisory, which the department said covers about 1,500 residential and commercial properties.

The red dot on the map signfies where water tested positive for E. coli. It is bound by an “initial impact area” that is south of Riggs Avenue, north of West Franklin Street, east of Pulaski Street, and west of Carey Street.

An interactive map of West and Southwest Baltimore — and parts of Baltimore and Howard counties — shows where water samples were collected Friday. The red dot is where water tested positive for E. coli contamination. The area is bounded by an “initial impact area.” The green dots signify samples that tested negative for E. coli. Areas around those sample locations are still included in the boil water advisory. Screenshot of map by DPW.

Green dots on the map signify other locations where water samples were collected Friday but that tested negative for E. coli.

The larger boundary within the dotted black line is under a water boil advisory “out of the abundance of caution,” Mayor Brandon Scott said Monday.

Timeline of testing and other events up to now

On Friday, DPW workers took water samples at 19 locations as part of routine testing. (According to DPW, the city tests the water monthly at 90 locations, collecting 360 samples each month.)

The department on Saturday received notification of a possible positive test for E. coli and had that specimen re-tested, which again came back positive.

DPW first notified the public about the E. coli contaminants on Monday morning.

E. coli contaminants were identified in samples collected at the Baltimore City Fire Department’s Engine 8 station (1503 W. Lafayette Ave.), the Baltimore Police Department’s Western District building (1034 N. Mount St.) and a location at 920 N. Carey St.

“The DPW team is flushing the system continuously and performing leak detection, valve assessments, and increasing the chlorination in the area,” the department tweeted.

Almost nine hours after those Twitter posts, the department issued a boil water advisory for the affected parts of West Baltimore.

Scott and other city officials held a press conference Monday night.

“At this time, we do not know the source of the contamination,” Scott said during the Monday press conference. “But I can assure you that we are working actively to determine the exact extent of the issue, identify the source, and resume the delivery of clean water to our residents in the impacted area.”

Howard County’s Department of Public Works shut down pumping equipment in the distribution area that is included in Baltimore City’s boil water advisory. The county is providing water “through alternative redundant means,” officials said in a Facebook post Tuesday afternoon.

“There are no impacts on water pressure or safety anywhere in Howard County and out of an abundance of caution, enhanced testing is in place to ensure the quality of our community’s water,” Howard County officials said.

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Marcus Dieterle

Marcus Dieterle is the managing editor of Baltimore Fishbowl. He returned to Baltimore in 2020 after working as the deputy editor of the Cecil Whig newspaper in Elkton, Md. He can be reached at marcus@baltimorefishbowl.com...