Friday, July 8, 2011

Summer brings high temps and E-coli warnings to Metro Reservoirs

The swim beach at Chatfield State Park was closed Thursday due to high levels of E. coli bacteria. The beach will re-open once tests indicate safer levels. This bacterium is commonly found in the lower intestine and a major component of fecal matter. Yep, that’s right…poo. This stuff is almost always in the water at lower elevations but usually in small amounts that are not considered harmful. As temperatures rise, so does the threat of getting seriously ill from ingesting even small amounts of tainted water.

Water in public reservoirs are frequently tested (usually once a week) and aquatic personnel may or may not tell you what those levels are unless they reach levels deemed “too high” by Colorado health agencies. Irrigation, treatment plant releases and wildlife are the largest introducers. Domestic animals, humans and even heavy rains also contribute depending on the frequency of visitors or turbulent weather.

Cases of E. coli poisoning will often rise with summer recreation and medical personnel are armed with the proper questions: “What have you eaten recently? Have you been in the water?” There is no effective way of treating E coli symptoms other than to prevent dehydration. Most medical officials avoid antibiotic treatments as that can lead to an even worse condition called hemolytic uremic syndrome.

Expect periodic testing and beach closures throughout the summer at Cherry Creek, Aurora and even Chatfield Reservoir. So many other lakes, ponds, streams and lower elevation waterways will be wrought with high levels of potentially harmful bacteria.

Fish and most wildlife are fairly resistant to E coli and can tolerate higher levels but can still be susceptible to illness as well as death if levels reach too high. I am still researching this by the way and looking for studies that track bacteria levels in fish. It may be alarming to know that some farmed fish are fed a mixture of protein and chicken poo that may contain E. coli as well.

Below is a link to the official announcement from the Denver Post via the Colorado Health folks.


Dog Hair in my Coffee said...

But probably not a big worry to you, fish-wise, as you mostly catch and release, right? Your knowledge and interest in things RELATED to fishing (and natural resources, etc.) amaze and impress me. Nice post. Even if Poo IS a pretty yucky topic! (and I can tell you from personal experience, an e-coli infection is THE. WORST. PAIN. EVER. Literally, morphene didn't touch it.) Stay out of the water, kiddies!

Coloradocasters said...

@DHIMC: Apologies for the original reply being lost…this and a few other problems are plaguing me at the moment with this format. Not sure if I am willing to move just yet but may not have a choice unless I want to upgrade my entire operating system apparently.

In life I am more concerned about things I cannot see as opposed to the things I can see. Bacteria levels are present pretty much everywhere, some forms are good and some forms are very bad to humans. I deleted a small rant about human’s tolerance to bacteria fading as medical science and antibacterial cleansers advance. It is a give and take.

What concerns me most though is the fact few people in Colorado take bacterium seriously. Kids continue to swim in sections of the S. Platte and people still let their dogs frolic in the water right where I am fishing. My Uncle’s dog “Bo” would often get seizures in the summer time after playing in the water and a local Veterinarian pointed to E. coli as a common cause of this. (sigh) 90% of the people that read this post that live in Colorado probably gave this blog post a big fat “Whatever!!!”

Thank you so much for being the one single comment on this post. That makes you extra awesome.

DenverGrl said...

I am a newbie fisherman. I often fish Chatfield - Kingfisher and Catfish Flats. When I read about the warning, I had to wonder, how does it affect the fish? Is it safe to eat? I catch and eat, not catch and release.

Coloradocasters said...

@:DenverGrl: Thanks for stopping by and appreciate the comment. The fish themselves are resistant to E. coli but can be affected by extremely high percentages. How much of the bacteria reside inside the fish is still something I am digging into. Maybe I need to send an e-mail off to some folks at the CSU aquatics lab to get their bonafide answer on this.

Do you keep everything you catch or do you prefer a certain species over another? Do you target the common size slot or try to keep the biggest fish possible? Chatfield offers such a variety of fishing opportunity and managed for bait\take. Moderation is the key to appease both sides of the sport fish and harvest communities.