LEHI, Utah (ABC4) — The Lehi Water Department began its treatment plan on Monday to combat the recent E. coli outbreak traced back to pressurized irrigation water.

While Lehi City is still investigating, the Utah County Health Department has reported a total of 12 cases of E. Coli. According to Lehi City, E. coli was found in five exposure sites which are the source of residents’ pressurized irrigation water.

According to the LWD, they began combatting E. coli found in its’ irrigation system by shock-treating reservoirs. This includes the Sandpit Reservoir and the Low Hill Reservoir.

“We shot doses at four parts per million, which is all still safe levels for pets and for livestock. The chemical we’re using is drinking water-approved. So it is safe for pets and animals,” Matt Dalton, the Operations Supervisor for LWD, said.

After the initial shock treatments, a separate drip-dosing system has been set up to deliver copper sulfate into the system.

“With a copper sulfate chemical, we’re using that to dose and to try to kill the bacteria in the E. coli in the pressurized irrigation system. Now it’s a known algae aside and bactericide,” Dalton said.

Residents in Lehi are still being advised not to use the irrigation water, as it could still potentially contain E. Coli.

“The advisory is still that residents don’t use the water to irrigate their lawns with especially for water toys, kitty pools, and obviously not drinking out of the hose itself,” Dalton said.

Symptoms of E. coli infection may include diarrhea (often bloody), abdominal cramps, nausea, and vomiting. According to the CDC, in severe cases, it can lead to kidney failure, especially among young children, the elderly, and individuals with compromised immune systems.

To prevent further illness from E. coli, residents are encouraged to adhere to the following important reminders and guidelines:

  • Irrigation water is not for drinking: Under no circumstances should irrigation water be used for drinking purposes. It is vital to recognize that PI water is untreated and poses a significant health risk if consumed.
  • Avoid use in recreational activities: The CDC has recommended that residents not water their lawns. 
  • Do not use irrigation water for bounce houses, pools, slip-n-slides, or any other recreational activities. It is common for children to swallow or get water in their mouths while playing.
  • Use caution when allowing children to play on lawns that have been watered with irrigation water. Keep an eye on them when they’re outside playing and make sure they don’t put their hands or anything else that might be on the lawn in their mouths. E. coli is hardy and can stick around even when the lawn isn’t wet.
  • After kids play, make sure they wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water.
  • Practice hand hygiene: When tending to your lawn or garden, wear gloves to minimize direct contact with irrigation water. After handling any produce or soil exposed to PI water, thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water.

The department said they are awaiting test results to see how effective the treatments are on the water, and they are unsure how long treatment will need to be to fully rid the water of E. coli.

“We are going to continue to monitor, to treat and to sample, and to monitor bacteria and E. coli levels. There’s not a time frame for when this advisory will be lifted,” Dalton said. “Like I say, we’re in uncharted territory and we’ve never had to deal with treating our pressurized irrigation system before”

They will also be installing an additional drip pump at another main storage reservoir when the supplies come in. They said they cannot shut off the irrigation water because it is also a source for the city’s fire suppression systems as well.

For now, residents will have to use their own good judgment when it comes to irrigation water to stay safe and avoid E. coli.