Locust Grove Wells Test Positive For E. Coli

Wednesday, February 25th 2009, 12:38 pm
By: News On 6

By Jeffrey Smith, The News On 6

LOCUST GROVE, OK -- More than a dozen Locust Grove homes have E. coli in their drinking water.  The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality on Wednesday released the results from last week's voluntary testing.  And, 17 household wells were contaminated with E. coli.  In total, 74 homes in the area were tested.

2/18/2009 Related story: E. Coli Outbreak Probe Focuses On Water Wells

One out of every four homes that signed up for testing came back positive for E. coli bacteria.  A DEQ spokesperson says it's a shock when E. coli is found in one well, let alone 17.  The news is evoking strong reaction from the Locust Grove community.

Restaurant owners say the town is still reeling from the Country Cottage outbreak.

"My water's clear.  It's good.  It's clean. None of us have ever been sick, and I've lived there my whole life," said Michelle Tugman of Locust Grove.

Michelle Tugman is preparing lunch at the Willard's Day and Night.

Fried food is their specialty.  At home, Tugman has always used well water.

"I think it's good that they're trying to figure out where it came from so they can do something about it, but it's really hurt our town," said Michelle Tugman.

DEQ says they can't pinpoint how long the bacteria had been living in the water. And, they can't pinpoint the origins of the bacteria. They also can't force any private homeowner to change the way they get their drinking water

The Oklahoma Department of Health is following-up with inspections, but it's careful to point out they don't know the potency of the bacteria or if any of the strains even cause disease.   

"They've checked it out enough. I think that enough is enough," said Shauna Summerlin of Locust Grove.

Many residents say no one's been sick since the isolated case at the Country Cottage and there's been enough testing. 

However, after learning about the E. coli results, some residents say there's not enough testing.

"It makes me wonder what's in my water, the city water. If it's the well water, then it's gotta be in the city water," said Dan Cooper of Locust Grove.

For more than dozen Locust Grove homes, the testing goes on.

The Oklahoma Department of Health says it's examining the water only from the wells that tested positive for E. coli.  Those tests will determine the level of toxins in the water.  A spokesperson says those results will be back sometime next week.