July 3, 2008

Fountain, Wild Horse Creeks Still Unhealthy

By Loretta Sword, The Pueblo Chieftain, Colo.

Jul. 3--Bacteria levels in Fountain and Wild Horse creeks remain at unsafe levels and residents are advised not to wade or fish in either creek.

Sarah Bruestle, public information officer at the Pueblo City-County Health Department, said Wednesday the unsafe bacteria levels are more likely the result of storm runoff carrying animal feces and other materials into the creeks than because of sewage spills.

Weekly testing during the past three weeks has shown a pattern of higher bacteria levels in the summer months, Bruestle said. The pattern applies even when both creeks are flowing at minimal levels.

Regular testing for E. coli bacteria started after multiple sewage spills upstream on the Fountain Creek, she said.

"We used to test in response to spills, but we noticed that the (Fountain) creek fluctuated and often it was above state recreational standards, which made it unsafe to be around the water. That's when we started testing weekly." The Fountain long has been a favorite place for fishing and wading, but Wild Horse Creek, which starts in Pueblo West and ends near the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo, attracts children who live in a nearby apartment complex, Bruestle said.

"The levels can be very high even when it's just a trickle, and the kids in that area are our concern," she said, adding that environmental health specialist Scott Cowan recommended Wednesday that the department's health advisory warning remain in effect for the Fountain and Wild Horse creeks because recent tests consistently have shown levels of E. coli that are above the state health standard for recreational contact.

The health department continues to recommend practicing good hygiene around any untreated, raw water -- such as water found in any creek.

Residents also are advised to take the following precautions:

Do not allow children to play in the creek, nor allow children to play with toys that have been in contact with the creek water.

Individuals who have come into contact with the creek water should wash their hands frequently with soap and clean, warm water. If clothing or shoes get wet, they should be removed and washed in warm water.

Anyone exposed to the water who has open wounds should contact a doctor or the health department for guidance regarding receiving tetanus and/or other immunizations.

The health department will continue biweekly monitoring of the situation on Fountain and Wild Horse creeks and will lift the health advisory when testing indicates that the waterways are safe for recreational contact.


Pueblo waterways: http:// www.pueblohealthdept.org


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