COLUMBUS, Indiana — Columbus City Utilities says the drinking water from its distribution system is safe and “there was never a risk to public health or safety,” according to a statement it released Tuesday afternoon.

City officials were able to successfully document to the satisfaction of the Indiana
Department of Environmental Management that the disinfection process used at the Columbus water treatment plant is sufficient to kill any E. coli contamination that might have been within the raw water supply.

A full range of eight water distribution samples were collected Monday and those results were all negative for any contamination, Columbus City Utilities said in its Tuesday afternoon statement.

However, the city’s Well 3-II at the Bartholomew County 4-H Fairgrounds, where contamination was found in repeat testing, will remain off-line until any and all corrective measures have been completed and the well is ruled safe by the City and IDEM officials, the utility stated.

City officials believe that the result of a test taken Wednesday showing E. coli contamination in the city’s water lines showed a “false positive” reading on Thursday, Mary Ferdon, executive director of administration and community development for the city, said Tuesday morning. When the water lines were re-tested on Thursday, they came up negative for E. coli as results were received Friday, Ferdon said.

City officials have since learned that while the “false positive” reading was for tap water, the test samples from the fairgrounds well were from untreated water, meaning it is untreated groundwater being pulled from a well before being filtered and purified at the water plant. Part of the filtering and purification process, including using chlorine, removes pathogenic microorganisms such as coliform bacteria from the water.

However, the Columbus City Utilities followed proper protocols and IDEM has confirmed the city’s drinking water meets the Revised Total Coliform Rule, said Barry Sneed, IDEM public information officer, on Monday.

Read more in Wednesday’s Republic.

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at or (812) 379-5631.