The small city of Colcord, Okla., has found its water supply under siege by red worms -- from the inside. In a strange case of infestation, Colcord town officials have had to shut off the water supply in an effort to rid the system of red worms that seem to have appeared out of nowhere. And even though the water has been turned back on, residents are still being warned not to drink water from the tap.
The Associated Press reported (via Yahoo News) Aug. 28 that Colcord had workers clean the city's water tower. In fact, according to city councilman Terry Wood, the tower was cleaned, drained, and then cleaned a second time. However, there was no sign of red worms.
So where did the wriggling pests come from? So far, experts and officials have been unable to determine their origin.
Thus, the warning to not drink water from a home faucet.
"We are still looking into this problem," Wood insisted. "I mean we need to get to the bottom of it and we will continue to investigate and do pretty much what we need to do to find out what happened here."
Wood said that Colcord residents were being asked not to consume water from a city water-connected tap or use it to brush teeth or prepare food. However, the water could be used for taking showers and other activities.
Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality spokeswoman Erin Hatfield said that it was uncommon for red worms to show up in a water system in the southwestern state. However, it is fairly common to see them in the southeastern United States. She says she is not certain as to why or how the red worms get into water systems.
Given that red worms procreate through cocoons, as noted by the Concordia Greenhouse Vericompost blog, the answer might be in animal transfer or water system breaches (such as broken or cracked pipes). Of course, knowing the how and why still might not prevent follow-up infestations.
In the meantime, bottled water has become the go-to liquid for Colcord residents. Walmart and the Cherokee Nation donated water for the besieged municipality.
Hatfield says that red worms are harmless and present no known health hazards. The Oklahoma DEQ has provided Colcord city officials with methods to hopefully prevent future infestations.
Colcord's red worms are just one of the problems facing cities and their water systems in America. In the Forbes magazine list of "America's 20 Dirtiest Cities,"one of the principal factors among the cities making the list was a degraded water supply.