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Tests find bacteria in water at one location here

Residents served by the Jamestown municipal water system are being warned of two failed bacteria tests this month, according to Steve Suko, utility operations director for Jamestown. The city is  notifying residents by mail today.

Residents are not being asked to boil water or take other precautions, although people with compromised immune systems, infants, pregnant women and the elderly may wish to contact a health care professional concerning possible precautions.

“It’s not an emergency,” Suko said. “But it is enough to flag us for investigation.”

The tests indicated the presence of coliform bacteria in two samples taken about a week apart at one of the testing locations in Jamestown, he said. The testing was routine and performed by the North Dakota Department of Health, which monitors drinking water safety and notified the city of the results. Coliform is not considered harmful but can be an indication of other potentially hazardous bacteria.

Suko said the samples were taken at 1003 13th St. NE, which is the location of Casey’s General Store. An area manager answering the phone at the business declined to comment.

Water samples taken at neighboring businesses on either side of Casey’s General Store were negative for bacteria.

“Our primary responsibility is to the health of the community, and we take that seriously,” Suko said. “The testing we’re doing is not for a specific site but for the distribution system as a whole.”

The city is undertaking what Suko described as an “aggressive pattern of testing” to isolate the problem and determine a probable cause. This includes taking and processing more test samples from all water outlets within the test site and conducting more sampling from the surrounding businesses on the same water line. Those results are anticipated Wednesday or Thursday.

“Our actions after that are yet to be determined,” he said. “If the next samples are negative, we could be done. If they’re positive results, we work with the (North Dakota) Health Department.”

Greg Wavra, drinking water program director for the North Dakota Department of Health, said his department would continue to work with the Jamestown Water Department until clean samples are submitted.

“If it came back positive they could flush the system and resample,” he said.

Wavra said coliform bacteria is common on almost all surfaces.

“You have it on your hands and on your desk and almost anywhere else,” he said. “We do some checking when we find it in water. We don’t issue a warning to boil the water unless harmful bacteria like the E.coli are found, which I don’t expect.”

Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at 701-952-8452 or by email at