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Lehi City to send out mailers warning of E. coli outbreak

Aug 29, 2023, 7:12 PM

LEHI, Utah — The City of Lehi is taking another step to warn residents of an E. coli outbreak in the city. The outbreak, first announced earlier this month, has led to a dozen confirmed cases and half a dozen hospitalizations, all involving children.

Each case stemmed from either drinking or playing in pressurized irrigation water, which is not treated.

Playing in her yard Tuesday, Lehi resident Paula Gonzalez explained that upon first hearing of the outbreak, she was concerned her dog Barley would fall ill.

“We were afraid because he gets wet, and he licks his paws,” she said.

Gonzalez saw the email that the city sent out to residents after the outbreak was reported. The Department of Health and Human Services estimated that 300 people could be sick.

It’s unclear how the outbreak could potentially impact pets, but vet clinics in the area tell KSL TV that an E. coli infection in dogs is not the same as contracting the more common bacteria, giardia.

This week, Gonzalez again heard about the outbreak at work, though the E. coli issue was news to some co-workers.

“I heard today that we have a student that is really sick,” she said. “But other people, they didn’t hear until today or yesterday about E. coli.”

Jeanteil Livingston, communications manager for the City of Lehi, said they’ve also been hearing of people who didn’t see the city email, text alert, social media posts, or news stories warning the community of the outbreak.

Residents are still finding out about it weeks later.

That’s why the city is now sending out 26,000 mailers Wednesday.

“We are doing this to make sure all Lehi residents receive this message,” Livingston said. “We are trying to utilize every single communications channel possible, so no resident can say they did not receive the message.”

Livingston said they’ve been getting info out to the public as soon as they get it in. The mailer explains the outbreak, and how the sickened people were playing in the pressurized irrigation water, which is different than culinary water.

The city outlines CDC guidelines that urge residents to refrain from watering their lawns or letting kids play in irrigation water and to cook all garden produce where pressurized irrigation water was used on the plants.

The mailer explains the treatment plan the city started. Livingston said the treatment, a sodium copper liquid put into two of the city’s reservoirs, is deemed safe for pets and livestock at the levels the city is using. They’re waiting on test results to see how it’s working.

“Even with the treatment that we’re currently using, it’s still not going to be to the standard of culinary water,” Livingston said. “And so, it’s just never safe to drink or play in that water.”

Livingston said they have not heard of any cases of someone just walking on a lawn.

Gonzalez said Barley’s been okay. She’s also been worried about picking her grapes for her family and neighbors to eat.

“I say, ‘I’m going to make them sick,’ you know, because of the E. coli,” she said.

After consulting with a science teacher at her school, Gonzalez learned that water used directly on plants and produce can leave the bacteria on her fruit.

She’s now only picking the grapes up high, untouched by the sprinklers and staying away from grapes near the ground.

“If sprinklers don’t get to fruit, don’t get wet, it should be fine,” she said.

In addition to sending the mailers, Livingston said Lehi City will start including inserts into their new resident packets that explain the difference between culinary water and pressurized irrigation water and outline the health impacts.

She also said the city keeps information updated on its website.

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Lehi City to send out mailers warning of E. coli outbreak