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No E. coli update expected until Monday, Long Beach officials say

Residents line up to receive water after strains

Residents line up to receive water after strains of E. coli were reported detected in the water supply in Long Beach and a boil water order was issued for the city on Friday. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Nassau County Department of Health has extended the boil water order in Long Beach through Sunday and until at least Monday, the city said Saturday.

The health department is conducting more precautionary tests, but city officials said no additional samples have tested positive for E. coli bacteria. However, now, through Sunday, Long Beach residents have to keep boiling their water to kill the bacteria detected earlier, as officials on Saturday said they do not expect to release additional information until Monday.

Nassau County gave the city another 16 pallets of bottled water that will be handed out starting at 7 a.m. at Kennedy Plaza, in front of City Hall, Long Beach officials said on their website on Saturday morning. The governor’s Office of Emergency Management had provided Long Beach residents with 30,000 bottles of water on Friday, and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in a statement on Saturday that they are prepared to send more during the weekend as needed. 

"Nothing is more important than the health and safety of New Yorkers and we will continue to coordinate closely with local officials and provide any resources necessary until this situation is fully resolved," Cuomo said. 

County and city officials on Friday directed about 35,000 residents to boil water for drinking, brushing teeth, washing hands when preparing food and bathing infants. No residents have become ill, officials said. Tap water must be boiled for one minute, experts said.

Water is still safe for bathing, if not ingested, and cooking, if water is boiled for one minute or food is cooked to appropriate temperatures, experts said. Water should not be used to rinse produce; any ice made from water that has not been boiled should be tossed out, and ice-makers turned off.

Officials and businesses were rushing to refill water supplies Saturday as bottled water was quickly bought out at grocery stores. 

Officials with Stop & Shop had redirected two tractor trailers carrying more than 5,000 packs of bottled water to be restocked and sold. 

One truck was expected to arrive by 2:30 p.m. and the other by 6 p.m. Saturday. Each truck carried about 2,500 24-packs of bottled water and 577 gallon jugs for sale. 

The Nassau County Health Department needs to receive two clean tests of water before the boil order can be lifted, city officials said. Samples were taken Friday and Saturday, with the final results expected at some point Sunday, officials said. 

Long Beach officials said water plant operators found a sample Wednesday from Grand Avenue that tested positive for coliforms, an indicator of E. coli. Nine other samples tested negative.

The plant operator collected three more samples Thursday and notified the city at 9:30 a.m. Friday that one from a Grand Avenue home tested positive for E. coli.

County officials said the source of the E. coli had not been found, but possibly came from a water main or storage tank, which prompted a request for the city to flush hydrants. The city has raised the chlorine levels and is flushing the water system.

Long Beach Public Works Director John Mirando said the positive test could have been caused by a contaminated tap where the sample was taken or there may have been contamination within the building from which the sample was taken.

The city said the positive test was not a systemwide issue since all other samples tested negative.

The warning came as the city prepared to welcome more than 30,000 visitors for three days of festivities for Pride on the Beach, which began Friday evening. LGBT Network president David Kilmnick said festivities will go on as planned, with bottled water available on the boardwalk.

Nassau County Commissioner of Health Dr. Lawrence Eisenstein said no illnesses have been reported from drinking water, which usually appears within three days of ingesting it, followed by gastrointestinal distress. He said cases of E. coli are rare and have not been found in Nassau for several years.

“We have not identified an ill resident,” Eisenstein said. “We don’t have a case of E. coli, and I don’t believe we will.”

The E. coli warning does not apply to surrounding communities of Long Beach, including Lido Beach, Atlantic Beach and Point Lookout.

E. coli, found in the intestines of people and animals, is a family of bacteria with both harmful and harmless strains, according to the state Department of Health. The harmful strains can release toxins that cause diarrhea or vomiting. The bacteria “may pose a special risk for infants, young children, elderly, and people with severely compromised immune systems,” the state health officials said.

“If you live in or are visiting Long Beach, only consume bottled or boiled water even when brushing your teeth,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said. “The health and safety of our residents is our absolute priority.”

Long Beach officials on Saturday thanked their residents for “their patience and understanding” and Sen. Todd D. Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) for arranging for the additional supplies, as acting City Manager Rob Agostisi worked through the night with the state and the county Office of Emergency Management to coordinate water deliveries.

“Rest assured that our passionate and dedicated city workforce is doing everything it can as we continue coordinating with other levels of government to rectify this situation,” Long Beach officials said.

For further information, call the City of Long Beach at 516-431-1000.

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