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Jordan Huether

Jordan Huether

Gordon on Boil Water Notice

Updated August 30 to include new test information from Glen Spaugh and comments from Drinking Water Specialist Andy Kahle

By Jordan Huether

Residents of Gordon were shocked to learn Wednesday afternoon that their drinking water had been contaminated with E. coli bacteria. An urgent notice posted to the city’s Facebook page warned the public that its public water system had violated microbiological standards after the E. coli bacteria was detected in its distribution system during the month of August 2019.

The notice warns that the water should not be consumed unless boiled for at least a minute first. “Boiled or bottled water should be used for drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes, and food preparation until further notice,” it continues.

According to City Manager Glen Spaugh, “The City of Gordon took samples at two locations on August 19, 2019. One of those locations indicated the presence of E Coli in the water and the other site had Coliform. According to State DHHS regulations, the results required a second sampling at the same sites. Any combination of E. coli positive samples and total coliform positive samples in routine and repeat coliform samples triggers an acute violation. In our situation, there was an E. coli positive routine sample, followed by total coliform positive repeat samples. This resulted in the Boil Water Notice being communicated to the public through phone calls, media and the hand delivery of fliers to each user location.”

“As far as the steps going forward, due to the Labor Day holiday and the Post Office, as well as State offices being closed on Monday, we will be taking five (5) samples on Tuesday and five (5) samples on Wednesday. There needs to be a total of ten (10) clean samples for the Boil Water restriction to be lifted. We are tentatively looking at Friday, September 6 before we can make such a declaration,” Spaugh concluded.

In a release Friday morning, Spaugh stated that the city has taken samples from the wells south of town, and that the tests were all negative. “We are hoping to lift the boil water restriction by next Friday, but ALL samples need to come back negative,” he stressed. “We have followed all the steps required by the State of Nebraska. It was their determination, after the second set of samples, to initiate the Boil Water Notice. We appreciate your patience, it is a difficult process for all of us, but we will press on!”

Andy Kahle, Drinking Water Program Specialist, Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, said the city has begun chlorinating the water system to help treat the situation. Kahle noted that tests both upstream and downstream of the positive test site came back negative. He stressed that the primary concern with the bacteria is ingestion and that if you don’t have access to boiled or bottled water, you should still continue to bathe and wash your hands regularly, while using caution, as abstaining from these activities can pose a greater health risk.

“E. coli are bacteria whose presence indicates that the water may be contaminated with human or animal wastes,” the city’s notice reads. “Human pathogens in these waters can cause short term effects, such as diarrhea, cramps, nausea, headaches, or other symptoms. They may pose a special health risk for infants, young children, some of the elderly, and people with severely compromised immune systems. The symptoms above are not caused only by organisms in drinking water. If you experience any of these symptoms and they persist, you may want to seek medical advice. People at increased risk should seek advice from health care providers about their drinking water.”

The city is still not sure how the bacteria entered the system, but the notice notes that the cause could be excessive water runoff from heavy rains entering the water source, a break in the distribution system or a failure in the water treatment process. The city is currently working to identify the problem and continues to test and work with the Drinking Water Program to identify the source and bring the system back to compliance. 

As part of the EPA’s Total Coliform Rule, public water systems may contain no E. coli or fecal coliforms. According the EPA’s website, “EPA set the MCLG for total coliforms to zero because there have been waterborne disease outbreaks in which researchers found very low levels of coliforms. The MCL levels are based on the positive sample tests for total coliforms (monthly MCL), or for total coliforms and Escherichia coli (E. coli) or fecal coliforms (acute MCL).”

According to the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, dishwashers can be used only if they have a sanitizing cycle. If not, wash your dishes as normal, then immerse the dishes for at least one minute in lukewarm water to which a tablespoon of bleach per gallon of water has been added. Allow the dishes to completely air dry. Hands should be washed with soap using either boiled or bottled water. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer can also be used. Adults may continue to shower as long as no water is swallowed. Sponge baths are recommended for children using a clean supply of water if possible. After you bathe or shower, wash your hands in chlorinated or bottled/boiled water. People with open wounds or who are immune-compromised should avoid showering in contaminated tap water.

The DES also notes that coffee makers, ice machines, and soda dispensers should not be used, and that fridge filters are generally not designed to remove the bacteria. While pets are not normally affected by the same diseases as humans, caution suggests giving pets pre-boiled or bottled water. They do note that, “E. coli is a sub-group of the fecal coliform bacteria group present in humans. Most E. coli, are harmless, but some can cause illness. E. coli outbreaks receive much media coverage. Most outbreaks have been related to food contamination (not water) caused by a specific strain of E. coli known as E. coli O157:H7. When a drinking water sample is reported as “E. coli positive,” it does not mean that this specific strain is present and in fact, it is probably not present. However, it does indicate recent fecal contamination. Boiling or treating contaminated drinking water with a disinfectant destroys all forms of E. coli, including O157:H7.”

The notice has already had significant effects on the community, with local schools notifying parents to please only send children with bottled or boiled water. The schools have also switched to paper products in the cafeteria to ensure student safety. Gordon Memorial Hospital and Gordon Countryside Care have implemented their emergency measures, switching to sanitary water reserves kept on hand for just such an occasion. Butler’s Daylight donuts has notified customers that they will have to close until they know the water is safe to use again. “We do not want to risk the health of our employees or our customers. We look forward to serving you again once it is safe,” their Facebook page reads. The Coffee Nook in Gordon has also been forced to close.

Local grocery stores and other retailers sold out of cases of bottled water within hours of the announcement Wednesday afternoon. Tony Meyer, owner of Grocery Mart, says he had to order extra pallets of water to help keep up with the demand.

Hawks advance to state championship with shutout win

By Jordan Huether

The Hay Springs Hawks football team has something special this year. They continued to prove that Friday night with a 38-0 performance over the Minatare  Indians in the Nebraska D-6 semifinal game on their home field. The Hawks have outscored their opponents 154-27 through the first three games of the playoff bracket. They now advance to face the undefeated Wilcox-Hildreth Falcons Friday, Nov. 16, at 6 p.m. MT in Kearney.

Hay Springs jumped out to a quick 13-0 lead over Minatare on two touchdown runs by Trent Reed before things slowed down with the cold weather. Both teams experienced multiple turnovers and dropped passes as the frozen pigskin proved to slippery. The Hawks came out of the locker room with renewed vigor in the second half, and quickly racked up 19 more points with another run by Trent Reed and two big receiving touchdowns by Brodey Planansky in the third quarter. Jarret Pieper would find the endzone on the ground in the fourth quarter to seal the win.

The undefeated Hawks were led by freshman quarterback Logan DeCoste, who was 2-6 passing for 73 yards. Trent Reed completed the only pass he threw, good for 44 yards.

Reed continued to do the heavy lifting in the run game, racking up 274 yards and 3 touchdowns on 26 carries, for an average of 10.5 yards per carry, including a big 70 yard run. Pieper was also a big contributor on the ground, running for 102 yards and one touchdown on 14 carries, including a big 50-yard run. Bryce Running Hawk added two carries for five yards, and also had one reception for 17 yards. Brodey Planansky had two receptions for 100 yards and two touchdowns.

As dominant as the Hawks’ offense was, their defense shined the most, completely shutting down the Indians throughout the game. Sophomore Cade Moore led the Hawks with 12 tackles, including four for a loss. Running Hawks had 11 tackles. Pieper had nine tackles, including 2 for a loss. Baiden Planansky had 8 tackles, Trent Reed 6, Brody Planansky 2, Austin Anderson 1, Johnny Toof 1.

Ocean of Grass coming to the Gordon Theater

By Jordan Huether

It’s not every day you have the opportunity to watch a movie featuring real-life ranching in the Nebraska Sandhills. Patrons of the Gordon Theater will have such an opportunity the weekend of Nov. 9-11 when Ocean of Grass by Georg Joutras comes to town. The film, completely shot and produced by Joutras himself, features the McGinn Family Ranch, located south of Dunning, Neb. Joutras spent two years shooting for the film, followed by another 22 months of post-production work. The film features a musical score written by renowned Nebraska Composer Tom Larson.

Joutras, a Nebraska artist and author, first visited the McGinn Ranch in 2003 while in the area working on a book. He had met owner Laron McGinn at an art gallery in Lincoln the week before and, after hitting if off, McGinn invited him out to the ranch if he were ever in the area. Joutras intended to just stay the night and be on his way, but he found the ranch such an inviting, open, calming place to be that a whole week had passed before he could make himself leave.

Knowing there was a story to be told about this magical place he had found, Joutras wrote the book, A Way of Life, about the ranch in 2007. He continued to visit the ranch regularly and photograph the one-of-a-kind scenes of the Nebraska Sandhills. In 2014, he was gifted a GoPro camera by his family and began using it to capture what still photography could not.

“I was like, well, that’s great, now what do I do with it,” Joutras said of the gift. “So, I decided maybe I’ll go out to the ranch and start shooting some video, not really expecting anything to happen with it. After 4-5 months, I ended  up shooting enough footage that I did a little trailer on the film and showed it around to the area, and the people that saw it thought I should keep going – there’s a good story to be told there.”

After a full year of shooting, Joutras upgraded to a professional-grade camera. The difference in quality was so significant that he ended up spending another year literally re-shooting the entire movie. None of the scenes nor dialog in the film are staged or scripted in any way, and Joutras assures there are no special effects or explosions. To help ensure he didn’t miss a shot, as well as to help earn his keep at the ranch, Joutras would help out by running cows, checking pastures, whatever they would let him do. “They made sure I couldn’t mess it up too bad,” he said with  laugh. “I’d be out helping with roundups and so forth and then when something needed to be filmed, I’d go into cinematographer mode, and I’d have my cameras with me and start filming. It is exactly as it happened. There is nothing staged. There is no script. This is as real of a film as you’re probably ever going to see.”

While the film covers a year in the life of a Sandhills ranch, Joutras stresses that the story is really much bigger than that. It’s about the people, their long-term views of the landscape, and how they treat the animals in their care with incredible compassion. “I thought that was important to get out there in the world as well,” he noted. “It’s really about Nebraska and the Nebraska people and how we kind of look at the world, and the quality of people that are in this part of the United States.”

While Joutras didn’t start shooting video with the intent of making a movie, Laron McGinn admits that it wasn’t much of a surprise when it came to fruition. “I had no idea he was about to pursue our lives, yet it was such a natural progression of his skills and talents,” said McGinn. “It’s an incredible legacy personally for us involved in the film. More than that, I think it tells the story that every rancher, everyone in this business, would like to portray to the world. It’s an honest work – hard work. There’s a freedom of choices, yet it’s the stewardship of the land, being very mindful of everything, every season. We think of not just for today but for down the road, for their kids. Bigger than that, it shows the care and compassion for the animals, for the cattle in our care.”

“I think it’s so genuine and that’s what I’m most proud of. That’s what resonates the most with me,” he concluded.

The film premiered at the Kansas City Film Fest in April and sold out the screening. “The Q&A ended up going on so long that they had to shut us down and kick us out because they had another film to show,” Joutras said proudly.

Ocean of Grass: Life on a Nebraska Sandhills Ranch opens at the Gordon Theater Friday, Nov. 9 with showings Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. A special matinée showing will be held Sunday at 1:30 with Joutras attending in person to hold a Q&A session after the movie at 3 p.m. All are invited to attend the Q&A. For more information on the film, visit oceanofgrassfilm.com

Hyle Kutschara

Hyle Jay Kutschara, 83, of Hay Springs, Neb., died on October 9, 2018, at Pioneer Manor Nursing home in Hay Springs, Neb. Hyle was born December 19, 1934, to Charles and Louise(Vanbuskirk) Kutschara in Hay Springs, Neb. Hyle married Marilyn Kranz from Oconto, Neb., in 1957, in Hay Springs, Neb.

Hyle lived and farmed North of Hay Springs most of his life. During that time he also worked for Agriculture Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS) for 19 years.

Hyle was preceded in death by his parents and sister MaryLou Kutschara. He is survived by his son and daughter-in-law Chuck and Alice Kutschara and son and daughter-in-law Carl and Shauna Kutschara, 5 grandchildren and 6 great grandchildren.

There will be a memorial service at a later date. A memorial has been established.

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