16, 2009 12:17 pm
AG looks for E. coli poultry link
Source of Article: http://www.pryordailytimes.com/local/local_story_047121741.html
State Attorney General wants to know if poultry litter caused a severe
E. coli outbreak in Locust Grove.
The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) will inspect and
sample the water in private wells within a five mile area of Locust Grove.
The tests are scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, Feb. 18-19.
“The goal is to protect the public,” said Attorney General Drew Edmondson. He
said homeowners who use well water within five miles of Locust Grove can call
to have their wells tested. He said the testing is to give homeowners
information about what is in their wells so they can make informed decisions.
The AG office is investigating a
possible link between the E. coli
outbreak at the Country Cottage restaurant in Locust Grove and poultry litter
contamination in the well water.
“We thought there were questions not being asked and answers not being
provided,” said Edmondson.
In September 2008, the state health department tested the Country Cottage
well water. Leslea Bennett-Webb, with the State
Health Department, said
several contaminants were found in the well water, including E. coli, but E.
coli 0111, the strain responsible for the outbreak, wasn’t one of them.
Bennett-Webb said the health department wasn’t able to find E. coli 0111
potential sources for the outbreak, including food, food surfaces, handlers
and the well. However, she said the health department cannot rule out the
well water as a possible source. But the health department can’t rule out the
food, handlers or food surfaces in the kitchen as possible sources either.
The health department is still working on their investigation.
“This was such a big deal,” she said. “We’re taking this really, really
seriously. We looked and looked and looked for the cause and we’ve not yet
been able to say ‘this is the smoking gun.’”
said his office is concerned with how the E. coli found got into the well
water in the first place. DEQ states porous soil in the Locust Grove area
makes water wells more susceptible to contamination during heavy rainfall
events in agriculture areas. Edmondson said the AG’s investigation concluded
the well water is a likely source of the E. coli outbreak since the health
couldn’t find a source inside the kitchen. He said the only known source of
E. coli was in the well. “Where did it come from?” Edmondson asked.
An AG report identified the well is a possible source, and it’s
unlikely human waste contributed to the
E. coli in the well.
states a significant poultry population is raised within a 5-mile radius of
the restaurant. The report shows 39 active poultry houses in a 5-mile area
which produce between 5,000 to 7,000 tons of waste each year. The poultry
waste is land applied within the vicinity of Country Cottage. The land is at
a gradient which provides a pathway for bacterial transport. Also, a
principal component analysis revealed a unique “chicken signature” at more
than one location in water samples at and near Country Cottage.
The AG’s office concluded the likely source of the bacteria in the Country
Cottage well is poultry waste, that the waste is a possible cause of the
outbreak and the
specific strain, E. coli 0111, has been found in poultry waste.
“It is important to note most
bacteria that makes people have gastrointestinal
illness is a result of animal waste,” said Bennett-Webb. But with E. coli
0111, the source tends to be cattle. “We’re not finding that strong of a link
with poultry waste.”
The AG’s office recommended
the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry (ODAFF) place an
immediate ban on the land application of poultry
waste in southern Mayes
County. Edmondson said
the ODAFF has opted not to issue a ban. An investigation is ongoing into
possible well water contamination and other potential sources of E. coli
0111. Edmondson said his office seeks to keep the public informed on the
findings of the investigation.
The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry will collect litter
application records, soil and litter test results from July 1 through Dec.
31, 2008, from
specific application sites specified by the Attorney General’s office.
Residents with private wells who are interested in testing can call DEQ’s 24-hour hotline at
(800) 522-0206 by close of business, Monday, Feb. 16, to schedule an