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Parasite Outbreak May Speed Efforts To Treat Baker City's Water

A parasite outbreak in Baker City may accelerate efforts to treat the city’s drinking water. The parasite cryptosporidium has caused at least ten residents to get medical attention with symptoms like vomiting and severe diarrhea. The parasite is carried in fecal matter.

Officials suspect the outbreak may have started with wildlife visiting a mountain lake, where Baker City gets its water.

Baker City has sent drinking water samples to Seattle for testing to determine whether the lake is responsible. Officials have already shifted the city to a different water source.

City manager Mike Kee says depending on those results, the city could quicken the pace on a $2.5 million water treatment project.

Kee said, “Right now the schedule is by 2016, we’ll have an ultraviolet plant on line - it sterilizes things like cryptosporidium and giardia, and makes the water that much safer. I’m sure we will explore - although council hasn’t asked me to — we will bring them a schedule that gets this done a little sooner. And give them the option to do that.”

Federal rules are pushing three other Oregon cities to provide more treatment for their open drinking water systems: Portland, Bend, and Reedsport.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story had the incorrect cost of the water treatment plant. 

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