The Tennessee Department of Health hasn’t yet released a full report on the samples taken from CLIMB Works, a zip line attraction in Sevier County. Preliminary results point to E. coli in the well water. Crews began Tuesday installing a new filtration system at CLIMB and staff offered free bottled water to customers. 

A spokesperson with the Tennessee Department of Health said Monday 548 people reported contracting stomach issues, including diarrhea and vomiting. All of them also reported drinking water along the zip line course in mid-June. 

Previous story: Tests confirm E. coli in well water at Sevier County zip line attraction

Todd Keith, a water quality specialist for Knoxville Plumbing, says no matter how you get your water, it has contaminants. In order to ensure what you’re drinking is safe, he says you can’t be complacent or not willing to spend a little time and money on maintenance. He says 15 percent of his customers are using well water. Unless your home is under mortgage, he says it’s unlikely you’re being required to get your well water tested. 

When it comes to well water, Keith says it’s up to you to make sure your filtration system is doing it’s job. Unlike municipal water, he says residential wells are not regulated by the EPA.

“With city water, you’re already going to have the chlorination to disinfect any bacteria, so those aren’t even on the table,” he said.

However, he says prolonged exposure to the chlorine in municipal water can also cause health issues, so he suggests a filtration system for it as well. 

Basically, he says no matter how much contamination seeps into a filtration system, if it’s current, it shouldn’t affect the quality of the drinking water. He says customers tend to get comfortable, install a system and go by the “one and done” method. 

“When we test,” he said, “we’re testing this specific time,” adding the ground condition is subject to change through factors like run-off water, sewer leaks or breaks and feces seeping into the ground. 

Keith also says filtration systems need to adapt to changing surroundings, including amount of sentiment, chemicals, high mineral areas, bacteria and pH. 

Keith says well water can be safe is it is tested every year and your filtration system is maintained. If your filtration system isn’t upgraded from time to time, he says you can be drinking contaminated water.

“Typically if you’re still getting bacteria through and you already have a system, I would question how sufficient that system is. The whole idea for the system is to eliminate that bacteria, e.coli being one of them,” he said. 

Knoxville Plumbing offers free at-home testing for certain minerals, but the free tests do not test for e.coli. They offer the service, but you will have to pay a fee and a sample will be sent to a certified lab with detailed results. 

In Knox County, you get can those detailed test results from the Knox County Health Department for $50. They test for e.coli and feces. Sevier County Environmental health will also sample well water for $75. They send their samples to Knoxville for testing.