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Water Boil Advisory Lifted, Parasite Gone from City Water

April 15, 1993

MILWAUKEE (AP) _ Milwaukee residents got the all-clear to drink water straight from the tap after the municipal water system was pronounced free of a parasite that sickened thousands.

″I now have renewed confidence that the drinking water in Milwaukee is safe enough to drink - safe enough to use for any purpose,″ Mayor John O. Norquist said Wednesday after reviewing the latest tests on the water system.

For eight days, more than 800,000 residents of Milwaukee and 10 suburbs were warned to boil water for drinking or washing food.

Moments after Norquist’s announcement, bartender Dennis Eisenhower drew cheers from customers at a downtown nightspot as he quaffed a tumbler of ice water.

″It’s going to be nice to go back to our own system, back to reality,″ he said. Many restaurants, like other businesses and individuals, relied heavily on bottled water during the past week.

Margaret Barnett, who said she had been ill for two weeks, wasn’t fully ready to trust the tap water. ″You’re just afraid, even if they say″ it’s clean, she said.

Julie Legan of suburban Wauwatosa, whose 4-year-old son was ill, said she will stick with bottled water ″until I see that it’s proven, that other people are drinking it.″

A microscopic organism, the protozoan cryptosporidium, was discovered in water tests last week as health officials investigated an outbreak of intestinal sickness marked by diarrhea, stomach cramps and vomiting.

The parasite, which is present in the intestinal tracts of animals, was believed to have been carried by runoff into Lake Michigan, from which Milwaukee draws its water.

More than 1,800 sought sought treatment from early March to early April for severe diarrhea like that caused by the parasite, state epidemiologist Jeffrey Davis said. Many others were stricken but did not seek treatment.

The illness usually runs its course in a mater of days but can be deadly for those in poor health. No deaths were definitely linked with the parasite, but a cancer patient who died April 6 was found to have cryptosporidium in her system.

And three AIDS patients hospitalized with severe dehydration and diarrhea have died since Friday, Milwaukee AIDS Project director Douglas Nelson said.

The outbreak prompted the mayor to order a tightening of Milwaukee’s water quality standards.

State, municipal and federal health officials plan to survey local food manufacturers to see whether their products were made with tainted water, said Dr. Greg Carmichael, city director of consumer protection.

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