Los Altos residents warned to boil water after bacteria detected

LOS ALTOS, Calif. (KTVU) -- Hundreds of people in Los Altos have been warned not to drink water from taps due to bacteria found by testing, according to a city official.

Former Los Altos mayor Jane Reed lives in the area affected by the water warning.

"We have to save all the water we can because we're on water rationing also," she said as she poured water from one pan to another.

Reed is now boiling the water she and her husband need for drinking, cooking and brushing their teeth.

"We're interested in knowing what the story is. Why has it happened? How long has it been going on? Of course, we've been drinking water quite regularly," she says. But she added, "no, we haven't gotten sick."

853 customers are affected by the threat of E-coli and total coliform bacteria. They live west of Foothill Expressway, as far north as the Roblita area, and as far south as the Dawnridge area near 280.

"Basically it calls for boiling the water for one minute," explained Michael Smith from the California Water Service Company about the ban on drinking the water.

The issue started on Friday when a water main ruptured. After the pipe was repaired, water tested positive for the bacteria.

"In this case, it could be anything like a false positive depending on how the sample was collected, or it could be that during the process of the repair, that bacteria was introduced," said Smith.

At Shoup Park, which is in the area affected by the water warning, police put a traffic cone on top of a water fountain with a note saying, do not drink the water. "It's the first time it's ever happened. And I've lived here for 46 years. We've never had any bacterial problems," said Betsy Fraser-Smith as she spent time in the park with her 4 year old grandson, Tyler.

If ingested, the e-coli and total coliform can cause diarrhea, cramps, and headaches among other things. They are especially dangerous to the very young, the very old, and those with compromised immune systems.

On Orange Avenue, we watched as a Google Express delivery driver dropped off 12 cases of water at a home. He said he had numerous similar calls in the area.

There are two rounds of follow-up testing that have been done. If both rounds come back negative, then the water department can request the state lift the ban on drinking the water. That could happen as early as Tuesday.