Lehi City: No new E. coli cases; reduced counts of bacteria in irrigation water

Sep 8, 2023, 7:05 PM | Updated: 7:12 pm

LEHI, Utah — There have been no new E. coli cases or hospitalizations in recent weeks, however, residents are being told to exercise caution if they choose to use irrigation water, Lehi City said in an update this week.

Lehi City: No new E. coli cases; reduced counts of bacteria in irrigation water. (KSL TV)

“The investigation linked the source of the cases to using pressurized irrigation for drinking and recreation, such as running through sprinklers or playing on slip-n-slides, bounce houses, and kiddie pools,” the city said.

In all, there were 12 cases of E. coli linked to Lehi’s irrigation water. Six of them had to be hospitalized—all of them children and teens.

The update from Lehi officials said the last irrigation water exposure related to an E. coli case was on August 4th.

Lehi City: No new E. coli cases; reduced counts of bacteria in irrigation water. (KSL TV)

“There is currently no evidence that the cases came from incidental exposure, such as playing in the grass or on a play structure,” the update went on to say.

In late August, Lehi’s water department announced that it had shock treated two irrigation water reservoirs. The city said follow-up testing indicated reduced counts of coliform and E. coli.

“Even with the treatment, the (pressurized irrigation) water will not reach the standard of culinary drinking water,” the city said.

From now until the end of the irrigation season on Oct. 15, the city’s water department will continue to monitor and treat the Sandpit Reservoir with copper sulfate.

The state health department warned that E. coli can stick around in your yard even after the sprinklers are off.

“The truth is that there are a lot of places where that bacteria can hide in the soil or places where it’s harder for the sunlight to get to,” said BreAnne Osborn, an epidemiologist with the Utah Department of Health and Human Services. “So, really it can stick around for a little while.”

Osborn said the outbreak in Lehi serves as a safety reminder to residents across Utah of the risks associated with irrigation water.

Lehi City: No new E. coli cases; reduced counts of bacteria in irrigation water. (KSL TV)

“We’ve kind of had this attitude about this water that maybe it’s always been safe and we want to get back to a place where it’s safe, but the reality is that pressurized irrigation water anywhere in the state has never really been safe for drinking or playing in,” she said.

Lehi residents are being told to follow these guidelines if they choose to continue using the pressurized irrigation water:

  • Do not drink pressurized irrigation (PI) water (this includes pets).
  • Do not play in PI water.
  • Irrigation water should not be used for bounce houses, pools, slip-n-slides, etc.
  • Though there are no Lehi cases linked to uncooked produce, be cautious with uncooked produce from your garden. It is currently recommended by the CDC that you do not consume uncooked produce from your personal garden.
  • Keep outside toys out of the mouth of children
  • Always practice good hygiene of thoroughly washing hands and keeping hands out of the mouth.
  • You can safely handle contaminated items with your hands without getting sick if you thoroughly wash your hands before handling food, before handling something you may put in your mouth, or before touching your mouth and nose.

For more information, visit Lehi City’s E. coli information page.

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Lehi City: No new E. coli cases; reduced counts of bacteria in irrigation water