Updated as of July 15, 2021 at 5:46 p.m. to include additional information regarding downtown restaurants. 

The city of Burlington issued a Boil Water Notice this afternoon after e. coli/fecal coliform was found at a specific location in the Burlington water system during a routine sampling July 14. 

According to a City of Burlington media release, the issue is not widespread and “every effort” is being made to resolve this as quickly as possible. They anticipate resolving the problem within two days. City of Burlington water customers should boil all water used for human consumption until further notice. 

Customers include those in the Town of Elon, including the Elon University main campus, and other surrounding municipalities. Elon University campus dining facilities and many local restaurants, including Pandora's, Smitty's, the Oak House, Tangent, the Root and MaGerk's, are closed until further notice. Students living on campus and all others in the nearby area should reference a document from the City of Burlington, which offers guidance on handling a Boil Water Notice.

E. coli/fecal coliform bacteria can cause illness and can be a particular concern for those with already weakened immune systems. Contamination can occur when there’s a break in the distribution system, a failure in the water treatment process or increased run-off from heavy rains enters the drinking water source. 

Vigorous water boiling for one minute should kill any disease-causing organisms that may be present. Town Manager Richard Roedner said the town of Elon has information for residents on the town of Elon website, reminding them to boil all water they use, from laundry and cooking to brushing their teeth.

“It is very critical for those in affected areas to follow the notice because we’re talking about the e.coli bacteria and there is the potential for people to get sick and have health effects,” Water Resources Director Bob Patterson said.

Bacteriological sampling throughout the City of Burlington water systems has increased. The main water areas have been flushed, chlorinated, cleaned and disinfected. 

“Our crews are working diligently to make sure this is only an isolated incident and are trying to fix the issue. We know this causes a lot of concern for our residents, but we do take the provision of water service very seriously,” Patterson said. “We’re sorry that this event has happened, but we will work diligently to get this cleaned up and get things back to normal.”

The City of Burlington is currently awaiting results to verify that the sample will come back negative and is taking additional samples throughout the water system to verify that this is an isolated incident. The town of Elon is also testing water throughout the town as well. Roedner said he hopes to give residents peace of mind when the results come in.

The city will inform residents when tests show no bacteria and water for consumption no longer needs to be boiled. Residents can contact the City of Burlington’s Customer Service Line at 336-222-5100 or visit their website for updates and additional information.


Jacob Kisamore and Kyra O'Connor contributed to the reporting of this story.