UK & World News
Somerset Floodwater Has High Bacteria Levels
Floodwater in Somerset contains 60 times the amount of safe bacteria for agricultural water, tests for Sky News have found.
Microbiologist Nathaniel Storey, from the University of Reading, took samples from Moorland on Thursday and tested it to see how much bacteria was in the water.
The tests revealed the water contained 60,000 to 70,000 bacteria per 100 millilitres.
The World Health Organisation says agricultural water should have no more than 1,000 bacteria per 100 millilitres.
Bathing water should have no more than 500 bacteria per 100 millilitres.
Mr Storey has told Sky News the amount of bacteria in the floodwater is high.
"It's perhaps unsurprising considering there's septic tanks in these people's gardens that are overflowing and animals within close proximity," he said.
"Therefore all this excrement that's in these areas is being dredged up by the floodwater and taken into houses and into gardens."
He says people who have been near the floodwater should be careful preparing food straight after.
"It's possible they could get some quite nasty gastrointestinal diseases or diarrhoea etc from coming into contact with this floodwater," he said.
"People should make sure they wash their hands after coming into contact with the floodwater, especially if they're going to preparing food."
He also warns that it could take about two to three months for the bacteria levels to drop in the region, so people must take precautions during the clean-up operation.
In response to the testing, a Public Health England spokesperson said: "It is unsurprising that samples of flood water have demonstrated the presence of bacteria normally found in the outdoor environment."
About 25 square miles (65 sq km) of the Somerset Levels has been swamped by the worst flooding in the area for 20 years.
Prime Minister David Cameron has said he has "enormous sympathy" for the people who live on the flooded Somerset Levels.
But many residents in the area blame the Environment Agency for exacerbating flooding they have experienced over the past month by not dredging the rivers.
There are still severe floods warnings in place across southwest England and the Midlands, after heavy overnight rain, high winds and a high spring tide.
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