A routine sampling of drinking water at Friends Park in Forest Hill revealed total coliform bacteria, a spokesperson for the Harford County Health Department said.
"This was identified as a result of a routine water sampling taken on September 13," William Wiseman wrote in an e-mail. "Subsequently five 'bacterial repeat' water samples were taken at various locations in the park on September 23, all of which were determined positive for total coliform bacteria."
Wiseman said the health department notified Harford County Parks and Recreation Oct. 2 of the outbreak, asking parks and rec officials to address the issue as soon as possible and post public notices at water fountains and bathrooms around the park.
Wiseman said it is unlikely anyone who drank the water would show any signs or symptoms of infection since total coliform is a less harmful strain of the bacteria. Fecal coliform, the more dangerous strain, has been associated with serious diseases such as dysentery, typhoid and hepatitis A.
"In this case, it's likely they could show no symptoms at all," Wiseman said. "Some people, for example, those with a lowered immunity, possibly could experience minor lower gastrointestinal symptoms."
Wiseman said he urges anyone who believes they may be infected to seek medical attention with their health care provider.
While total coliform bacteria can thrive anywhere, Wiseman said, it is generally not found in protected ground sources. He said an investigation revealed that the well, which provides drinking water to the park, had been damaged causing the coliform issue.
"HCHD was informed there had been some damage to the well, that likely speaks to the coliform issue," Wiseman said. "This damage to the well must be repaired."
Paul S. Magness, deputy director of Harford County Parks and Recreation, said the damaged well has been treated with a liquid chlorine bleach flush. He said the well's water will be retested Oct. 25 to see if traces of coliform are still present.
"If it passes, everything will go back to normal," Magness said. "If it doesn't, we will go to the next step which is a higher chlorine tablet flush."
Magness said while coliform bacteria is not found often, it can be an indication of another, more serious bacterial infection.