WDAY: The News Leader

Published July 22, 2010, 08:08 AM

Water wells in McLeod test positive for E. Coli

McLeod, ND (WDAY TV) - People in McLeod, North Dakota are dealing with an unsettling health scare after years of wet weather. Water wells in the tiny town of about 28, nearly 20 miles southeast of Lisbon, have tested positive for E. Coli.

By: Travis Skonseng, WDAY

The state of North Dakota is now becoming involved in the water contamination. It will test every well in McLeod Monday. By some accounts, the ongoing fight dates back nearly 20 years to the early 1990s.

Everyday life for Deb Sagvold has turned into one of frustration. Who can blame her, the McLeod mother's well has tested positive twice for E. Coli since 1986.

“We've just been using bottled water and just trying not to drink it as much as we can.”

Each in the past two years, the same years Sagvold's basement has flooded. She bleaches it often, but the mold on the floor and walls just won't go away.

“The whole family has been a lot sicker this year than usual with stuffy noses and irritated throats.”

Wherever you look, most ditches in and out of town are filled with water, scum, even sewage.

“The water table is 6-7 feet now with the rains that we've had over the last 10-15 years. The water table is only probably one foot underneath the ground. In some cases, it's above ground.”

There's simply no where for all this murky water to go.

“Yes, it's very annoying.”

With ground so saturated, basements flood and sewers backup.

“One bathroom won't work at all. The second bathrooms work okay, but it takes several days before it functions all the way and that's if there's just half an inch, an inch of rain.”

And with no end in sight, unhappy homeowners fear the situation will only get worse, meaning even more possible sickness.

“It would be nice to find some way of dealing with it and getting rid of it.”

Some people are boiling water and not washing clothes or dishes as often. Every homeowner has their own well and sewer system. In most cases they are only 15 to 20 feet deep.

Ransom County officials are urging state leaders to approve an emergency drainage ditch to relieve some of the problems. A similar drainage ditch built in 1997 is plugged with water, debris, and sewage. Some people say it was put in incorrectly.

The proposed new plan is to build a nine mile, 12-foot deep ditch. It would drain water into the Sheyenne River northwest of McLeod. The county is running into problems though because of nearby federal land so construction may not start for at least another year.

“We're trying to you pull the pieces together, but of course we need to work with environmental people and get through all the hoops that it takes to get that approval.”

The state emergency management and water commission are working with the county.