Idaho health officials find source of E. coli contamination

Posted at 10:48 AM, Feb 14, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-14 12:48:03-05

Officials from Southwest District Health and the Department of Environmental Quality have completed their review of potential sources of wastewater contamination in nine private wells south of Nampa -- determining the most likely source of the contamination is coming from septic systems in the area.

“The presence of E. coli bacteria in the wells is the primary health concern, with the potential of dangerous parasites, bacteria, and viruses associated with its presence,” said Southwest District Health Department spokeswoman Laurie Boston. “Even though all wells tested did not show the presence of E. coli, evidence indicates wastewater is starting to affect all wells in the area. Fortunately, there have been no illnesses reported in connection with this finding.”

E. coli bacteria are a type of fecal coliform commonly found in the intestines and feces of animals and humans, health officials said. If well water contains animal or human feces and the water is consumed, it can be harmful to both humans and animals. It can also be an indicator of other germs in the water.

“For those wells showing the presence of E. coli, it is recommended not to ingest the water without boiling it first,” Boston explained. “Bathing in the water is safe as long as it is not ingested, however bottled or treated water should be used when brushing teeth. Installing an ultraviolet filtration treatment system is a viable option.”

“We strongly recommend for all well owners in the area to continue to test their well water regularly for E. coli and coliform bacteria,” said Brian Crawford, SWDH’s Division Director of Environmental Health. “Even though E. coli is not currently present, it could appear in the future.”

This situation was first identified last summer. With the first reports of water contamination, all residents living within 1,000 feet of a contaminated well were notified of the potential health risks.

SWDH is forming a workgroup to provide technical assistance to the residents and property owners. Technical assistance will include both short term and long term treatment options. The workgroup will strive to identify long term options to prevent further contamination of the area’s well water by early fall, Boston stated.

SWDH experts are available to answer questions or assist with well testing. You can call them at 208.455.5400.