Apparent Suicide In Dietrich, Idaho Prompts Hazmat Response And Drinking Water Scare

May 25, 2018

Following the death of a longtime city employee who was involved with Dietrich's water supply, the mayor of the small town told residents to refrain from drinking the water for fear it might be poisoned.
Credit Christopher Irwin / Flickr

The death of a municipal worker in the small town of Dietrich has prompted city leaders to question the well-being of the town’s water supply.

Among the first responders who were briefly hospitalized after discovering the deceased Dietrich public works employee Thursday was Lincoln County Sheriff Rene Rodriguez.

“I’m doing well,” Rodriguez says. “We’ve all been released from the hospital and we’re all either home or back at the office.”

Rodriguez was one of several first responders who fell ill following their arrival at what he describes as an apparent suicide. He says he and others who came to the scene were exposed to nitrogen gas coming from a large canister.

“When there’s a high amount of nitrogen in the air, it replaces the oxygen which will then suffocate you,” says the sheriff.

The discovery of the body also led to an order by the mayor for residents to avoid Dietrich’s drinking water, according to Michael Brown.

“The mayor felt that—he had concerns that he potentially would have contaminated the water supply,” says Brown, who's with the state's Department of Environmental Quality in Twin Fall’s office. “From what we have found out from first responders and the hazmat team on the scene, most likely there was nothing there that would’ve been a contributor to a poisoning of the well.”

Brown says water infrastructure in the city did not appear to be tampered with. Water samples are still being tested.

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