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MailTribune.com
  • Baker City plant cuts workers after cryptosporidium outbreak

  • BAKER CITY — A Baker City plant announced layoffs because of the cryptosporidium outbreak that has plagued the Eastern Oregon community's water supply since last month.
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  • BAKER CITY — A Baker City plant announced layoffs because of the cryptosporidium outbreak that has plagued the Eastern Oregon community's water supply since last month.
    Peter Johnson, the Boise, Idaho-based president of Tasty Bake, declined to say how many workers were let go.
    The business is best known for creating partially baked pizza crusts that can be topped and oven-finished. The company's website says the "special flavor and texture" of Tasty Bake dough is partially due to mountain fresh water.
    "Tasty Bake has suffered a great loss of business and the catalyst of the loss was the cryptosporidium in the Baker City water supply," Johnson said in a statement.
    "This will result in an unfortunate layoff for a large portion of the Tasty Bake production staff and some associates in other cities."
    The Baker City Herald reports that estimates about the size of the layoff range from a dozen workers to 30.
    Tasty Bake had been advertising in the Baker City Herald for new workers as recently as Wednesday. The ad sought workers who could stand "for long periods of time."
    "For Tasty Bake the most unfortunate part of this event is the Americans, our great staff, who do the work and who believe they are protected by local, state and federal organizations are the ones who will receive the stiffest penalty," Johnson said. "They will be laid off. We consider this a travesty."
    Animal feces is the usual source of cryptosporidium, the parasite that causes severe diarrhea and has sickened many residents.
    When the illness started in late July, the city suspected water from a lake where mountain goats congregate and stopped drawing from it.
    The parasite was later detected in water from a mountain stream named Elk Creek.
    A boil advisory for water users in Baker City began July 31 after some ill residents were found to have cryptosporidiosis. The advisory was heightened to a boil order on Aug. 3 after water tests detected the parasite in the city's water.
    Only 22 cases of cryptosporidiosis have been confirmed so far. The total number of illnesses is estimated to be in the hundreds or possibly "a four-digit" figure, said Dr. Bill Keene, senior state epidemiologist with the Oregon Health Division.
    Recent tests show the municipal water supply to be nearly crypto-free. More test results are expected midweek, city officials said.
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