The news of blood worms infesting the water supply of Colcord, Okla. is making the rest of the nation check their water twice. The town, which is home to 800 residents, have been advised not to drink, cook or even brush their teeth with the tap water and schools in the area have been closed since Tuesday. Officials are trying to figure out where the bright-red invaders came from, according to an Aug. 29 report by CNN.
The blood worms, also called red worms, are the aquatic larva of the midge, technically named Chironomus plumosus. They typically live at the bottom of stagnant pools and ditches and are usually found in the southeastern states, but not in Oklahoma. There has been only one other recorded blood worm infestation in the state, in the town of Drumright. However, that was over 20 years ago and 180 miles away.
The larvae are named blood worms because they are bright red in color, but they can also be brown or almost black. When they pupate, they drift towards the surface, which makes them vulnerable to fish.
During the spring and summer, the midge will create mating swarms, then the females will lay egg masses in water. This is where they grow and sink to the bottom, where they stay in silken tubes and feed on organic debris and algae.
During the spring and summer males will create mating swarms which people can find quite a nuisance even though adults do not bite, or feed. Females will lay egg masses in water where the egg mass will grow and sink to the bottom. The larva stay at the bottom in silken tubes. The larva feed on organic material such as organic debris and algae.
While blood worms are not known to cause any harm to humans, authorities are erring on the side of caution and do not want to take any chances.
Erin Hatfield, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) said that they are investigating the cause of the blood worm outbreak, but cannot say when the water will be safe to drink.
Cody Gibby, water commissioner for the town of Colcord doesn’t know how the blood worms got through the water-filtering defenses. He says,
“It’s not just a little 6-inch filter, it’s 6 foot of coal and sand mixed together that not even a hair can get through. And these worms are getting through it and getting into our distribution water.”
The larva can be incredibly tiny and while it seems odd that a large amount would make it through the town’s water filteration system, it is always possible. The most logical explanation is that there may be some crack or other tiny opening that has allowed these blood worms through.
What do you think about the blood worms infesting the water supply of Colcord, Okla.? What are your theories on how they made it into the tap water?