Wayne Public School Superintendent Toby Ringwald never expected the outpouring of support – and bottled water – the district is receiving in the wake of drinking water woes for the town.
“It’s unreal,” he said Tuesday. “I thought if we got 10 cases of water it would be good.”
Instead, the water donations have been flooding in by the pallet load.
“I called a buddy of mine Monday and he brought 10 cases,” Ringwald said.
When the Heart of Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce learned what was happening, an email was sent to all chamber members asking for bottled water.
“I started getting phone calls and started getting pallets of water,” Ringwald said. “It’s the most generous display I’ve ever seen and so unexpected.”
In fact, there has been enough bottled water donated that the schools are in a position to share the bounty.
“We are able to partner with the city to get water to the people in town who need water,” he said.
Ringwald said the Wayne campus will be a bottled water distribution point for the duration of the crisis.
Any surplus water will be passed on to fire departments, Ringwald said.
A boil order for drinking water is in effect at Wayne after E. coli bacteria was found in the town’s water supply.
The finding indicates the water supply may be contaminated with human or animal wastes.
Microbes in the waste can cause short-term effects, including diarrhea, cramps, nausea, headaches and other symptoms.
There is particularly a health risk for infants, young children, elderly and persons with severely compromised immune systems.
Residents are cautioned against drinking the water without first bringing it to a fast rolling boil for at least one minute.
Wayne’s emergency management director Kristie Smith said other uses requiring the water be boiled include food preparation, baby formula, ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes, bathing infants who may swallow bath water and cleaning open wounds.
As an alternative to boiling, use bottled water or water from another acceptable source.
“We will inform you when this problem has been corrected,” Smith said. “We anticipate resolving the problem within one week.”
According to the notification from the town, bacterial contamination can occur when increased run-off enters the drinking water source or when there’s a break in the distribution or a failure in the water treatment process.
Officials are draining the water towers and flushing the system with chlorinated water to remove the contaminated water.
Anyone wishing to donate bottled water is asked to contact Ringwald at (405) 388-7202.
For more information on guidelines to lessen the infection risk, residents can call Smith at 449-3451 or 777-3359, as well as the EPA Safe Drinking Water Hotline at (800) 426-4791.