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Tap Water Off Limits After Officials Find Bacteria In Wis. Town

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(credit: CBS) Rachel Slavik
Rachel Slavik joined the WCCO team in October of 2010 and is thrill...
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HAMMOND, Wis. (WCCO) – Water is off limits in Hammond, Wis.

The town is under a boil advisory after tests showed coliform bacteria, a generally harmless bacteria, in the water.
Standing tall above Main Street, Hammond’s water tower tends to blend into the background. But inside the town’s homes and businesses, the water can’t be ignored. It still flows freely from the faucet. The problem is: you can’t drink it.

“It’s a huge inconvenience,” said Curtis Sobottka, who lives in Hammond. “We have to go to my in-laws to make our food or boil water.”

Sobottka never realized how much he relies on water from the tap. With the city under a boil advisory, clean water comes from boiling a pot of water on the stove or a plastic water bottle.

“I’ve had to brush my teeth with bottled water,” Sobottka said.

The advisory is slowing down business at Sammy’s Bar and Grill, where a quick meal is no longer so simple. Water must be boiled before the simplest tasks from preparing soup to washing vegetables.

“I got to make sure I do extra work, and come in earlier in the morning, to get some stuff done,” said Gary Zielsdorf, the executive chef at Sammy’s.

Sodas come from cans instead of the beverage gun, ice must be brought in.

“It’s going to be a big challenge, because the amount of ice we go through, on a weekend, in a bar, is outrageous,” Zielsdorf said.

Beyond the inconvenience, there’s concern about when the town learned of the advisory. It came six days after a sample showed coliform bacteria in the water supply.

“The DNR has a process that we’re required to follow,” said Brenda Monroe, village trustee of Hammond.

The process requires two positive tests before an alert goes out to ensure no false/positives. The first test happened on May 24, followed by a second test on May 29. The notification went out on May 30.

“They don’t want to create panic,” Monroe said.

Curtis would have rather known immediately.

“We went the entire weekend, not knowing, so we’re drinking water,” Sobottka said.

He believes it would have given him a choice in how he gets his water, but more importantly, peace of mind in what he drinks.

The water is being treated with chlorine. More testing begins next week and the advisory could be lifted by Wednesday at the earliest.

Water is tested in Hammond, twice a month.

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