Water samples tested at the Health Board's infectious diseases laboratory have confirmed a contamination of Escheria coli bacteria in the drinking water of the city of Kuressaare. As new samples taken by the city's water utility still show contamination, residents are urged to continue drinking bottled water.
Janne Pullat, head of the Health Board's laboratory, said that additional PCR testing was carried out to determine the serotype of E.coli which was not found to be the most toxic type but matches the symptoms of patients in Kuressaare.
Pullat said that it is necessary to let bacteria grow for at least 24 hours to identify pathogens, which is why final confirmation will take a little more time. The lab will continue analyzing clinical samples from patients to make sure the infection is a match.
Kärt Sõber, head of the board's infectious diseases epidemiology department, said that the number of people turning to the Kuressaare ER has fallen and the number of ambulance calls normalized.
"But the situation has not normalized yet as new samples taken by the Kuressaare water company came back positive for E.coli. Tap water still needs to be boiled thoroughly before use to destroy any bacteria that might be left in the system. The local water company will continue efforts to flush the system and add chlorine to fix the problem, while it might take several days to completely eradicate the contamination," Sõber said.
The Agriculture and Food Board (PTA) says that all food producers on the island must halt work until the issue is solved, unless they have a water source other than then mains water supply.
Health Board launches supervision proceedings
The municipality-owned Kuressaare Veevärk will continue taking samples on a daily basis until the city's drinking water problem is solved. Sõber said that the contamination probably happened in the piping system and that the Health Board is investigating the cause.
The Health Board is conducting supervision proceedings to get to the bottom of all the circumstances of the incident, including whether all applicable rules were observed.
Editor: Marcus Turovski