BOULDER - An analysis of floodwaters shows "elevated" levels of E. coli, according to testing conducted by 9Wants to Know and a state lab.
While the results aren't surprising, it's proof on why floodwaters can make people sick.
"It fit our expectations and reinforces why people should stay out of the water," said Steve Gunderson, the director of Colorado's Water Quality Control Division. "Intestinal illness could be a very real possibility."
E. coli is a bacteria found in all mammals. In water quality testing, it is often an indicator of fecal matter or sewage contamination.
Certain strains of E. coli can make people sick. In rare cases, certain types of the bacteria can be deadly.
Using sterile water collection kits provided by Colorado's Laboratory Services Division, 9Wants to Know submitted six samples of floodwater from various parts of flooding areas to the state.
A flooded mobile home park just east of Longmont was the worst contaminated. Results from the park show E. coli levels about 60 times higher than what is typically allowed in a public swimming pool.
While that level isn't shockingly high, state water quality officials say it's enough to show floodwaters should be avoided.
The second worst contaminated area came from water in the middle of a Boulder neighborhood, with results showing the presence of E. coli at 3,000 colonies per 100 ml, or about 20 times higher than what's allowable for surface water.
The third worst contaminated sample came from water in the Sedgwick area at about 2,000 E. coli colonies per 100 ml.
Gunderson said floodwaters that caused the spreading of livestock waste and raw sewage from damaged facilities are causing the "elevated levels."
He recommends people should get a tetanus shot if they came in contact with flood waters. He says clothes should be thoroughly washed or even thrown out.
Have a comment or tip for investigative reporter Jeremy Jojola? Call him at 303-871-1425 or e-mail him
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