Clean water seen as top issue
Attorney general expresses his concerns for availability, quality.

By John David Sutter Published: July 29, 2008
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Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson said Monday water cleanliness and availability are the most important issues facing the state.

This comes at a time of widespread concern about Oklahoma's water quality.

Edmondson, who is suing poultry companies over alleged manure pollution, said an average of 1,000 to 1,500 people become sick each summer from swimming in the Illinois River watershed. That area is a popular summer vacation spot, with 150,000 visitors annually, he said.

The illnesses go unnoticed, he said, when people attribute stomach illness to food poisoning when bacteria from feces in the water made them sick.

The attorney general also said animal or human waste is to blame for the recent outbreak of a virus in the drinking water of a Grand Lake condominium complex.

The comments came at the state's Water Law Conference, which is being held as a primer for regional meetings on water issues that start in August. The meetings will result in a 50-year plan for water use in the state. That plan will be hatched by 2011, and some say it is overdue.

Focus is on Illinois River
Most of Edmondson's lunch-time speech focused on the Illinois River watershed, in northeast Oklahoma.

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BACKGROUND
Grand Lake contamination
On Friday, the state Department of Environmental Quality announced that it shut down the Windmill Run Marina Inc. complex's water system after more than 60 people became sick from a Norovirus. The department says it is investigating the matter, which also involved bacterial contamination of the private groundwater well.

About 700 shallow groundwater wells in the area could be in jeopardy of similar contamination, Attorney General Drew Edmondson said.

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