The outbreak of a rare strain of E. coli centered east of Tulsa has now made 116 people sick, put 50 into area hospitals and taken at least one life. The Oklahoman today is reporting that well water tests at the Country Cottage restaurant are raising more questions about the source of the deadly E. coli 0111.

According to The Oklahoman story by John David Sutter:

The state Health Department says its inquiry into a deadly E. coli outbreak in northeast Oklahoma remains focused on food from a buffet restaurant in Locust Grove, even though tests of the restaurant’s well water show possible bacterial contamination.

Water tests released Friday by the state Department of Environmental Quality show a private water well at the Country Cottage restaurant may be contaminated with potentially harmful bacteria. But the tests are inconclusive and "may be a very peripheral finding” in the state’s overall investigation into the outbreak, state epidemiologist Kristy Bradley said.

 The Country Cottage used its private and untested well water when the public supply was not available.   A city water line break on or about Aug. 10th caused the restaurant to switch to its back up source.   But the restaurant claims it was back on public water when most people who got sick dined there, between Aug. 15 and 17.

Using untested private well water in a public restaurant may be illegal in Oklahoma.

Can we say for sure it was the water that caused the outbreak? No, we can’t. But we also can’t rule it out,” said an Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality spokesman.

State officials said the public water supply undergoes regular testing and is safe, but urged other private well owners in the area to get their water tested as soon as possible.

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