Plague Hits Boomtown

Alright, perhaps "plague" is too strong a word...

Last week the Washoe County District Health Department issued a boil water order for Cabela's and Boomtown Hotel and Casino. This was due to total coliform bacteria found in their water supply. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, total coliform bacteria are "natural and common inhabitants of soil and ambient waters (such as lakes and rivers) and are generally harmless. They are usually not found in ground water that is free of surface water or fecal contaminants."

Fortunately none of the 80 people evacuated from the hotel suffered side effects from exposure to the bacteria, symptoms of which include diarrhea, cramps, nausea, possibly jaundice, fatigue and headaches.

Last week the hotels worked to eliminate the bacteria in their water supply, but in the meantime Boomtown hotel wasshut down while the casino remained open. The Hotel appears to have now reopened.

According to the casino's general manager David Williams, "all the water systems have been disinfected including ice, soft drink and coffee machines, and chlorine has been added to the storage tank." He also stated that "we literally have a guy climbing up there [in order to add chlorine to the tank]."

What was the cause of this breakout? The hotel has had a clean bill of health according to Health Department records dating back to 1997, but a new water pump was recently installed. This pump is used to pump water from five wells into a 500,000-gallon storage tank for Boomtown, but it was evidently faulty and allowed bacteria to filter through with the water supply.

The Health Department does require the Boomtown public water system to take a sample for total coliform within its distribution system monthly, which is why this outbreak was caught. Fortunately, because nobody came down with any immediate symptoms this wasn't declared a medical emergency. It's also possible that people did come down with symptoms which they attributed to seasonal allergies, colds or the flu.