Residents of Park Rapids have been told to boil their water or switch to bottled water for the next few days after E. coli contamination was found in the city's water system.
The contamination was discovered Friday, and the Minnesota Department of Health issued the boil order Saturday morning. The city began flushing its water system with chlorine Saturday evening.
The Hubbard County sheriff's office told residents not to drink the water without bringing it to a boil for one minute, then letting it cool.
Officials said Sunday that the cause of the contamination had not been determined, but they were looking at a highway construction project as a possible source. Initial tests indicated the contamination happened in the distribution system, not in the city's wells. Officials expected the boil order to remain in place until further notice, likely five to seven days.
The City Council and city staff met with state health officials Sunday to discuss corrective actions and decided to permanently chlorinate the city's water system.
The presence of E. coli bacteria indicates that water may be contaminated with human or animal wastes. The bacteria can cause diarrhea, cramps, nausea, headaches and other symptoms. People with weakened immune systems are at the highest risk.
Park Rapids is a community of about 3,000 people about 30 miles south of Bemidji.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)