When lightning strikes, E. coli can show up in water, even at Xmas

An Australian town was hit with its second E. coli outbreak in three years on Friday, forcing residents and businesses to boil their water for five days over the holidays after a lightning strike struck the town’s chlorination plant.

Residents of Braidwood, near Canberra, are demanding an explanation from their local council.

The latest contamination has highlighted the town’s drinking water crisis, with a new treatment plant for the town now 18 months overdue. Palerang Council allocated almost $3 million to build a new plant in 2010 but have since gotten into a contractual dispute which has cost it $400,000.

Frank and Shaunea Exon were both hit with severe cases of diarrhea in 2008, while Mrs Exon was pregnant, after a similar outbreak of E. coli shut down the town’s water supply for 20 days.

”I don’t understand it,” Mrs Exon said. ”We’re paying some of the highest rates in the country, higher than Sydney and Canberra, so they can build this new water treatment plant and they still can’t seem to get it right. To not have access to basic services in this day and age, especially at Christmas, is a bit ridiculous.”

The new TorPeas restaurant was caught off guard by the outbreak after just opening their doors nine weeks ago.

Owner Jane Norris said her main street business was one of the only eateries open on Christmas Day and she had 80 people booked in for lunch.

”We got the notification two days before Christmas and we freaked out a little because we had so much seafood on the menu that we couldn’t wash with town water,” she said.

”We spent an hour every day boiling water, decanting it and keeping it in the cooler room and bought extra bottles of hand sanitizer.

”The whole situation was made worse on Friday because we had a two-hour blackout, so it was like cooking in the restaurant in the dark with just a few torches.”