Officials at the Village of Malta must come up with a better plan for notifying residents about critical health information.
On Tuesday, there was a water main break in the village that caused water pressure to drop below what the Environmental Protection Agency considers a safe level.
When that happens, water operators are required by the EPA to notify customers that they must boil their water before drinking it in order to kill any bacteria, viruses or microorganisms that could make them sick.
Malta officials said this was the first time in four years that they have had to issue a boil order, and it seems they need to revisit their procedure for notifying the public.
Village officials did not take advantage of several available channels for letting people know about the boil order, starting with the village’s web page, VillageOfMalta.net, or the village page on Facebook.
Although it appears WLBK-AM and WDBK-FM radio stations were contacted about the boil order, the Daily Chronicle was left out of the loop. When contacted Tuesday evening, School District 428 Superintendent James Briscoe was unaware of the problem, which did affect Malta Elementary School.
Some people said on social media that they found out belatedly about the boil order and were dismayed because they had been using the water from the tap.
We understand that Malta is a small community, that it does not have the same resources as its larger neighbors and that news can travel fast in a small town. But operating a water system is an important responsibility. People who receive “city water” trust implicitly that the water that comes out of the tap in their home will be safe to drink. When that is not the case, they need to be notified through as many means as possible, as quickly as possible.
Today there are many ways of contacting people, from the local media to the village’s web site to social media and other means of electronic communication.
Village President Vince McCabe said the village board will re-evaluate its process for spreading the word among its residents, and that sounds like the right idea to us.
Public health is an urgent matter and should be treated as such in all cases.