A single positive well test Friday set off an alert for residents in the area of Batavia-Oakfield Townline Road and Lewiston Road to boil their drinking and cooking water, officials confirmed this afternoon.
The test found bacteria in the well water of a single residence on Batavia-Oakfield Townline Road, said George Squires, manager of the Genesee County Soil and Water Conservation District.
"It may be attributed to some manure spreading that may have gone on in the area," Squires said. "I was out of town all last week and just found out Friday myself. I don't have a lot of details because I've not been out there myself yet. I spoke briefly with a farmer and his consultant this morning and the health department this afternoon. I don't have a lot of details and I don't feel comfortable about making any conclusions yet."
County Health Director Paul Pettit said the affected area is no more than 25 parcels.
"We haven't pinpointed the exact source," Pettit said. "We wanted to alert the residents of those houses right around that area that there may be an issue with wells in the area."
There was a communication miscue on Friday, Pettit said. The health department alerted the Emergency Dispatch Center and the Emergency Services Office with the expectation that the alert they drafted would be sent only to the affected 25 or so residents. There was no intention to send out a media release, since it was such a small section of the county. Instead, the alert was sent out countywide and regional TV stations mistakenly reported that there was a boil water advisory for all of Genesee County.
The confusion led today to the City of Batavia putting out its own announcement informing residents that there is no boil water advisory for the city.
The communication Friday is "something we need to review and look at," Pettit said.
Both Squires and Pettit discussed the difficulty farmers face this time of year. They're eager to prepare crop lands for tillage and planting, which requires properly timed manure spreading, but there are also regulations for larger farmers that govern when they can do it.
"Larger farms are supposed to monitor weather and predict significant melting events," Squires said. "They're not supposed to spread in advance of an event like that. This time of a year, predicting warm temperatures in advance gets to be a little bit of a challenge."
It's a violation of a farm's permit, Squires said, to contaminate ground or surface water.
There may have been one or two other spills in county recently, Squires said, but there's been complaints about wells elsewhere in the county (Squires said he didn't have details yet; the spills could have been in areas that are already on public water, therefore well water wouldn't be contaminated).
"I need to get ahold of the DEC and find out what's going on," Squires said.
A week ago, a reader in Oakfield contacted The Batavian to complain about a possible manure spill. We requested info from the DEC but have not received any further information. Neither Squires nor Pettit were aware of any reported spills in the area prior to the well complaint received on Friday.The single well on Batavia-Oakfield Townline Road is the only confirmed instance of well contamination at this time.
For more on what to do when a boil water advisory is issued for your area, click here.
UPDATE: Here's a map of the affected area, provided by the County Health Department.