FOX 17’s Lab Tests Show “Extremely High” E. Coli Levels In Waters Hit By Manure Spill

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ALLEGAN COUNTY, Mich. (Feb. 19, 2014)– It’s a FOX 17 investigation following a manure spill that has contaminated the waters in Allegan County.

The results of our testing of the waters affected by the spill have returned.  We took collections to Prein & Newhof Laboratory in Grand Rapids for independent testing just after the spill and again Tuesday.

The first two samples taken from a creek in the Weick’s Drain area near 26th Street Friday near Hopkins during the spill were so brown, you couldn’t see through the collection bottles.

That location sits very close to the Schaendorf Dairy Farm and the spill site.

According to lab director Robert Erickson, the samples tested very high for E. Coli which can make people sick, causing nausea, vomiting or eye, nose or throat infections.

“In relating to safety for body contact, it’s extremely high,” said Erickson.

In sample number one, the lab found more than 170,000 E-Coli colonies per 100 milliliters of waters.

That’s around 550 times the recommended limit of 300 for body contact.

In the same area of Weick’s Drain, sample number two produced 130,000 E-Coli colonies, which would be more than 425 times the advised body contact limit.

Monday we dipped into the creek again off of 24th, this time about 1.5 miles from the spill site at the farm.

That was the location that crews from the farm were vacuuming manure water out of the creek, trying to clean it.

The water we poured into those collection bottles from that site was much clearer compared to the first samples that were taken during the spill.

However, those samples were still yellow in color.

The lab checked those and found that four days after the spill was discovered, the E-Coli numbers were still well above what would be considered OK for human contact.

Sample number three collected from that area showed 3,600 E-Coli colonies per 100 milliliters of water.

That’s still more than 10 times what should be the safe body contact limit.

Sample number four collected from that area showed 2,000 E-Coli colonies, that’s more than six times the allowed limit.

“Swimming beach sampling during the summer, when they do their averaging, the safe level is 300,” Erickson. “That’s not a safe for body contact at all.”

As cleanup continues by Schaendorf Farm workers in the Weick’s Drain area Monterey Townhsip Supervisor Nevin Cooper-Keel says that he is looking into the situation personally.

“It’s really alarming, because that’s one thing I’ve always loved about being there is how clean it is and you know I hope it can get back to clean and safe levels as soon as possible,” said Keel.

He hopes to investigate what can be done to prevent that type of safety concern down the road.

“I don`t know if I want to eat fish out of there now,” said Keel. “But, there’s also questions like ‘Is there anything we should be looking at for the future to prevent something like this from happening?'”

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  • Katie Smallegan

    Hey fox 17, when are you going to test the Grand River after the city of Grand Rapids dumps raw human sewage in it?? That water is brown and thick too! Or test it after a heavy rain?? I’d be interested to know the e-coli levels then! Especially last spring when it flooded so bad and there was toilet paper hanging on all the trees that lined the banks of the Grand River!! How about you do a story on that little problem! Because that has been going on for years and years! But it seems like everyone turns a blind eye to that!! Why is that?? Seems to me like that’s the bigger story…. Billions of gallons of raw human sewage going directly into Lake Michigan or one small family farm who has an unfortunate accident that spills only thousands of gallons?? Seems to me that there’s bigger fish to fry!

    Besides all that, I grew up on a dairy farm, running around barefoot thru manure; funny thing… I never got sick from it! Think about it…. What are cows fed?? The most organic food possible! I’m not sorry for having a rant…. I don’t know everything and I don’t claim too. But I am tired of the media picking on the farmer who puts food on your table, when cities like Grand Rapids get away with dumping billions of gallons of raw human sewage into the Grand River and nobody fines them or makes a big deal out of what they are doing to one of our Great Lakes! The hypocrisy discuses me!!!

  • farmer don

    Absolutely ridiculous. I'm a farmer who is so close to giving it up because of news stations like this. I hope you starve. Why do you you find the need to make such a huge deal about this. Its not going to hurt anyone. All I can say is god bless the farmer that feeds all your fat asses at fox 17

  • concerned citizen

    Ms. Dowling, any report what the level of e.coli was UPstream? With no benchmark of “clean” water the results are worthless. But that’s not the story either, is it?

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