July 25, 2008

Playground Still Indicates Bacteria

By Mike Branom, The Tribune, Mesa, Ariz.

Jul. 25--Tempe Town Lake's splash playground will stay closed for at least another week while further testing determines whether the water remains polluted with an intestinal parasite despite thorough cleaning efforts.

City officials said Thursday a sample taken earlier this week tested positive for cryptosporidium, a harmful bacterium blamed for dozens of illnesses at Phoenix pools.

What remains to be seen, and won't be known for at least seven days, is whether the remaining single-cell organisms are still able to reproduce. That reproduction, or viability, is essential to making people sick, Parks and Recreation Department spokeswoman Denise Rentschler said.

But Tempe officials were heartened by the test, which showed reduced levels of cryptosporidium as compared with July 18, when the first positive results prompted the immediate closure of the popular cool-down spot. That is proof the disinfecting efforts are working, environmental services administrator Dave McNeil said.

In Phoenix, as many as 60 people may have been sickened with the parasite, although there have only been two confirmed cases of cryptosporidiosis. The city closed 29 pools, but all were reopened by Tuesday. Cryptosporidium attacks the intestines, causing an infection that can result in symptoms of diarrhea, stomach pains or cramps and a low fever.

Fecal matter carries the bacteria; Tempe officials said they don't who or what initially produced the feces.

Following word of the closures in Phoenix, recreation officials at cities across the East Valley began testing their pools and splash parks.

The only positive was recorded at the Town Lake splash playground, and when that news reached city officials July 18 the park was closed within 15 minutes.

Since then, the playground has been fenced off.

If the playground's water still tests positive, parks and recreation officials have two choices, McNeil said.

One option is to continue running the water through the filtration system, as well as maintaining high levels of chlorine and bromine. The other alternative is to completely drain the park of its water and start with a fresh supply.


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