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Grocery stores strive to deal with crypto

By Chris Collins

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The cryptosporidium contamination of Baker City’s water supply has caused a specific set of problems for the community’s two largest grocery stores.

Albertsons and Safeway each have taken different tacks to ensure customer safety.

Both stores removed fresh produce and meat and curtailed service at their bakeries when the boil water advisory initially was announced by the city on Wednesday, July 31.

At the Safeway Store at 1205 Campbell St., Starbucks service also was temporarily suspended until a clean water supply was available, according to Luke Stanhope, Public and Government Affairs manager of  the Northwest Division of Safeway Inc. 

Stanhope said the store trucked clean, potable water from La Grande and plumbed it into the system Aug. 2 after flushing and sanitizing it and swapping out the filters.

The sinks were washed down and the Coke machines were sanitized and flushed as well.

Stanhope said the water was shut off for 20 minutes early that Friday afternoon to separate the cooling tower from the incoming tanker water. 

The system was flushed and the tanker was put in place late that afternoon.

Water was shut off again for two hours that Friday night while the plumbing was flushed and sterilized, he said.

Stanhope said the company would not comment on the cost of the procedure.

“We are certainly concerned about the situation and want to make sure that folks in the surrounding area have sufficient access to the local supermarket despite the public water situation,” he said.

At Albertsons, the meat department has been closed except for its prepackaged items, said Terry Watkins, assistant store director, because the store relies on city water to operate that department.

The deli and bakery departments also have been reduced. For example, fried chicken is still available, but rotisserie chicken is not.

And the misting system has been taken offline in the produce department. Employees are hand misting the vegetables every half hour with water that has been boiled and cooled.

Measures, such as using more plastic ware and lining pans with aluminum foil, have been taken to reduce dish washing. Albertsons does not use dishwashers,  but because of the cryptosporidium contamination of the water, it must be boiled before using, Watkins said. 

Rain checks will be issued for all advertised specials that are not available until full service is restored, “so hopefully everything gets back on track pretty soon,” he said.


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