Fountain Creek: Pigeon poop main E. coli culprit

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From The Colorado Springs Gazette (R. Scott Rappold):

“After doing some detective work and talking to the city of Manitou Springs, it became likely pigeons might be the source,” said David Mau, hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. That’s right, it was pigeons. In Manitou Springs. With their droppings. “Not a good mystery novel,” acknowledged Rich Muzzy, environmental planning manager for the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments, which worked with the USGS on the study.

The results of the study will be discussed at a public meeting Wednesday in Colorado Springs. The public is encouraged to attend to voice thoughts on the E. coli problem and ways to deal with it…

Molecular microbiology tests matched E. coli in the water with that found in humans, and while some was found in the creek, it wasn’t enough to explain the summer spike. Next they ran tests for cows, deer, elk, dogs and cats, and they still didn’t find enough matches to explain the high levels. “It has to be coming from some other source, these high E. coli concentrations, and the only potential source after looking at the area was that birds may be the source,” Mau said.

Researchers talked to Manitou officials, and learned there is in fact a healthy pigeon population. While there is no test to link E. coli with pigeon intestinal linings, Mau said one is in development…

Colorado Springs Utilities, which contributed $134,000 for the $450,000 study, has long been blamed by some downstream for the E. coli problem, because of occasional sewage and wastewater spills into the creek. “We’ve been very confident, certainly with the amount of money we’ve invested in our wastewater system, that it wasn’t from our system,” Utilities spokesman Steve Berry said. “We’ve said all along it’s a large watershed and there are potentially multiple sources of E. coli that wind up in the waterway.” Researchers also determined Manitou Springs’ aging sewage system was not to blame, Muzzy said. A few leaking lines were identified and fixed, but high levels remained, he said.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

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