A holding pool for drinking water in Askøy outside Bergen hadn’t been inspected for several years. Around 2,000 local residents had fallen ill as of Sunday evening, after the water was found to have been contaminated by the E-coli bacteria.
Askøy’s acting mayor confirmed during the Whitsund holiday weekend that no tests are likely to have been taken recently of the water in the areas of the drinking water system where the bacteria was found.
“We routinely take tests of the water distribution system once a week,” acting mayor Bård Espelid told state broadcaster NRK. “The testing points are based on a risk evaluation, but now we see that the upper pool hasn’t been included in the routine.”
He couldn’t say why it hasn’t been subject to local water quality monitoring routines. “I don’t know the last time it was checked,” Espelid said. “It may have been several years since the last tests were taken at that pool, but we now must learn from what’s happened and it must be included in the program.”
The number of residents reporting severe stomach upset has exploded over the weekend, with around 2,000 people now registered as suffering nausea, vomiting, stomach pain and diarrhea. Some people have fallen ill even after boiling all their water for consumption, and several have been admitted to Haukeland University Hospital in Bergen because of dehydration.
The upper pool of Askøy’s Kleppe Waterworks has been subject to intake control but not when water later runs down to the local distribution system. The pool has a capacity of 500 cubic eters of water, or around 500,000 liters.
Three epidemiologists from the state public health institute arrived in Askøy on Sunday to help the local community come to grips with its water crisis. Hospital officials said a total of 34 Askøy residents were currently admitted, none of them critically ill. The death of a one-year-old boy from Askøy admitted last week with a severe infection has been tied to the contaminated water.