Employees noticed bad smelling water coming out of a water fountain Monday. Two people who work in the building became sick after drinking the water.
Tests show the water had a high pH level, and has been shut off as experts try to locate the source of the problem.
The health department thinks the tainted water was caused by plumbing work done over the weekend.
Because its air conditioning system is water-fed, the building also has no air conditioning. Janet Lindbloom, Cumberland County's health director, says keeping the building open was not an option.
"Even if we put signs up by the water fountains and asked people not to use the water, there's no guarantee people will read the signs or be able to understand the water could potentially have something in it that would cause them to be sick. So we cannot take that risk."
Cumberland County residents who need immediate help are being directed to a satellite office 12 miles away in Spring Lake. Additional staff has been added to handle the extra workload.
"We certainly want to uphold the standards we expect of everyone else," says Lindbloom. "Things like this happen, and any old building can be subject to water problems. It is ironic that the health department is in this scenario."
To clear up the problem, the health department will have to put in a back flow valve and flush out the system.
County leaders are meeting Wednesday afternoon to determine how to provide health services while the main office is closed.
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