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Recent Flooding Prompts Reminders of Well Water Safety
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 07/14/2017

With most areas of the state experiencing above-average rainfall this year, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture says now is a good time for private well owners to test their water to make sure it's safe to drink. And for those who sell or buy produce at local farmers markets, the awareness of bacteria contamination is equally important.

"When flooding occurs like it has the past few days, two things generally happen that might have negative impacts on produce," said Shawn Bartholomew, Safe Wisconsin Produce program manager at DATCP. "First is contamination of well water used to wash produce and second is direct contamination of produce in the field."

Bartholomew says state and federal food safety regulations do not directly address flooding, or do regulations governing application of manure and pesticides.

"The only absolute is that produce that has come in contact with flood water is considered unfit for human or animal consumption," he said.

Producers who use well water to wash produce prior to sale should pay close attention to the condition of their well. Contamination should be suspected if the flood waters can enter the top of a well or migrate underground to a well from a neighbor's flooded well, according to the Department of Natural Resources. Wells located in pits, basements and low-lying areas are especially susceptible, and may not show obvious signs of contamination. Well owners who observe flooding or changes in their water should assume their wells are contaminated and should stop using the water.

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