Little red worms usually found in gardens and compost have been found in a water tower in Colcord, Okla., forcing the town to shut off its drinking water supply Tuesday.
Officials issued an emergency advisory to residents, who must pick up jugs of clean water from the town's emergency management office until the water tower can be cleaned and inspected, according to a KWTV report on Colcord's red worms and the water supply.
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The worm invasion has forced the Colcord School District and all commercial businesses to close.
"We've had tornadoes come through here and wipe us out and ice storms," Frank Gibby, of emergency management, told KWTV. "We've seemed to have managed."
Tim Ward, assistant water division director in the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, said that the red worm infestation is more common in the southeastern part of the United States.
Ward believes the infestation began at the city’s water treatment plant, which uses an open-filter system. DEQ officials told local station News On 6
that midge flies likely entered the top of the filter and worked their way down to begin the infestation.
The worms, which are related to earthworms, are a half-inch to an inch long and resemble a centipede.
"Bleach doesn’t even kill them," Gibby said. "We don’t know what we are dealing with."
Colcord is 75 miles east of Tulsa.
The state's environmental quality department will run tests on the tower once it has been cleaned.
Town officials are encouraging residents to see their physicians if they believe they consumed contaminated water.
The red worms are also called tiger worms, manure worms, and brandling worms. They consist of 90 percent water and no bones.
The worms breathe through their moist skin and would suffocate and die in dry conditions. Earthworms have five hearts, although they are not four-chambered hearts like humans. Instead, they are five pairs of enlarged blood vessels with valves that prevent the blood from backing up.
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