Portland's boil water alert sends people scrambling to buy bottled water

Portland's boil water alert sends people scrambling to buy bottled water »Play Video
A woman runs out of the Safeway on Northwest Broadway in Portland, Ore. Friday, May 23, 2014, with a shopping cart full of bottled water. Store shelves were quickly emptied of bottled water after the city issued a water boil notice.

PORTLAND, Ore. - It was a surreal scene outside of Safeway in Northeast Portland Friday as countless Portlanders scrambled to stock up on bottled water. Cart after cart, filled with bottled water, poured out of the grocery store.

The city of Portland issued a boil water notice Friday for all customers after state health officials detected E. coli bacteria in water samples at three locations over a three-day period.

"Until further notice, all Portland Water Bureau customers and those in the affected areas should boil all tap water used for drinking, food preparation, tooth brushing and ice for at least one minute. Ice or any beverages prepared with un-boiled tap water on or after May 20 should be discarded," the water bureau said on its website.

Officials said 670,000 people are affected by the boil water notice. It is the largest boil water notice in the city's history.

"I work with my dad. He's my boss and he was like 'get out now and get some water for everybody!" said Max Snyder, who had a cart full of bottled water from Safeway.

KATU spoke with one dad buying purified nursery water for his 4-month-old.

"When she wants a bottle she really wants it, and I don't want to have to boil the water for her," dad Paudl Cedfeldt said.

Grandmother Linda Bannister was buying gallons of bottled water to stock up at home to prevent her family from becoming sick.

"I've never heard this but I know it's bad," Bannister said.

KATU found David Stone loading up his cart full of cases of bottled water Friday, both for his family and his business. Stone is the director of Virginia Woof, a non-profit doggie daycare that also doubles as a place for homeless youth to learn job skills.

"I want to make sure they have healthy water so they don't get sick," Stone said.

Stone said his team cares for about 50 dogs. He said that number drops to around 10 on weekends.

"You've got some players who really need to drink water, otherwise they'll dehydrate completely," Stone continued. "I don't know how long it's going to last, I just want to make sure the dogs are taken care of."

People affected
All Portland Water Bureau customers are affected. Also affected are customers of the following water providers:
Burlington Water District
City of Gresham (North of I-84)
Lake Grove Water District
Lorna Portland Water
Palatine Hill Water District
Rockwood Water District
Tigard Water Service Area (including Durham, King City and Bull Mountain)
Valley View Water District
West Slope Water District

Symptoms of illness
The water bureau believes the potential health risk is low but symptoms can include:
Diarrhea.
Cramps.
Nausea.
And headaches.

If any of these symptoms persist, you may want to seek medical advice.  Infants, young children, some of the elderly, and people with severely compromised immune systems are most at risk.

More information
Maps and additional information can be found on the Portland Water Bureau's website or by calling 503-823-7770.

Many have had trouble getting information from the Portland Water Bureau website. It crashed minutes after the news spread on social media.