USPS announcement worries Clayton Co. health department - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

USPS announcement worries Clayton Co. health department

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CLAYTON COUNTY (KWWL) -

The United States Postal Service (USPS) said Monday that eliminating the overnight service on first-class mail would trim $2 billion from its operating costs. Many of Iowa's city and county health departments, however, would then see a major roadblock in helping to keep people safe and healthy.

As Clayton County's Health and Zoning Department administrator, Janet Ott tests drinking water. It's usually at private homes and from wells.

Pulling two small bottles out of a box, she said, "One is used to test for nitrates. The other is used to test for [Total Coliform and E. Coli] bacteria."

When testing, she goes to the homeowner's house and fills each bottle with tap water.

However, time is of the essence.

"We mail these to the Hygienic Laboratory in Iowa City. They have to get there the next day," Ott said. "If the sample is delayed by even a day, the water's not any good. Things have died or they can't test for it."

That's why Ott is concerned about the USPS eliminating overnight delivery.

"We're pretty dependent on the Post Office to get those down there in time," she said.

As far as using FedEx or UPS instead of the USPS, she said, "I don't know what the cost would be, but I'm sure it's going to be more."

The county's department processes between 100 and 200 of the drinking water samples every year. Spending more money on shipping would reduce the number of tests the department could afford since a state grant covers most of the costs.

Clayton County is not alone in this dilemma.

"All the cities that test for the public wells or the restaurants out there in the county, they have to test so often, and, again, they have to have their water shipped in within 24 hours, so whether that means they're going to have to start driving things down or it'll be affected, you know, they're going to have to come up with another option like we will," Ott said.

Monday's announcement from the USPS is not, technically, a final decision. The Postal Regulatory Commission now has to issue its own opinion on the USPS's proposal, which it is expected to do in March. Postmaster General Patrick Donahue, however, has made it clear he intends on moving forward with eliminating overnight deliver on first-class mail regardless, since the commission's opinion is non binding.

Until the Postal Regulatory Commission issues its opinion, however, Ott has time to find another option for shipping water samples to Iowa City in a timely manner.

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