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Waterborne parasite sickens Baker City

BAKER CITY, Ore. (AP) — A waterborne parasite has sickened eight people in Baker City, and officials say they suspect the source is a lake where mountain goats live.

The illnesses were confirmed Thursday, and there are likely many more cases, the Baker City Herald reported.

The parasite is cryptosporidium, which causes severe diarrhea. A common source is animal feces.

On Thursday morning, the city in the Grande Ronde Valley of Eastern Oregon stopped drawing water from Goodrich Lake, which is high in the Elkhorn Mountain range. A large population of goats is near the lake.

The city asked large water users such as a golf course, the school district and the cemetery to curtail irrigation and homeowners to be sparing in watering lawns and gardens.

A city worker was driving samples to a Seattle lab on Thursday to confirm the source of the parasite.

But officials said the case was strong that it was from the lake, a source of summer water to supplement the city’s main supply, diversions from mountain streams. The lake supplies went online July 15, and reports of illness followed.

“Adding Goodrich water was the only change to our system during that period,” said Public Works Director Michelle Owen.

The city has another source of extra water in the summer, a well, but it doesn’t have as much capacity as the Goodrich reservoir.

City workers are inspecting the mountain stream diversions to make sure there isn’t an obvious potential source of contamination, such as an animal carcass lodged in a diversion pipe.

Owen said that in 2010 and 2011 federally required tests showed evidence of cryptosporidium — the protective shell that makes the parasite resistant to the concentrations of chlorine the city uses as a disinfectant.

The samples came from a time when the city was using the lake water, she said, but the results weren’t conclusive because the water from various sources is mixed in the distribution system.

Information from: The Baker City Heral, http://www.bakercityherald.com/

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press

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