The major waterway flowing from Palmer Lake to Pueblo has an e-coli contamination problem. It is the creeks and streams in the Fountain Creek Watershed. "We exceed the state limit for e-coli levels in our waterways several times throughout the year," said Colorado Springs Utilities, Fountain Creek Watershed Manager, Allison Plute.
Most waterways have some level of e-coli. The waste from birds and wild animals is often the cause. Along Fountain Creek Watershed there are many areas with levels well above what is considered safe.
Water testing records for 2017 are currently being compiled. Numbers from 2015 through 2016 show just how bad the e-coli can get. They measure parts per 100 milliliters and 126 is considered the safe level for recreation.
There was one major storm in August of 2016 when levels on one day reached into the tens of thousands. The more realistic and still important finding is levels above the safe standard more than 50 percent of the time.
It is part of the figure it out and fix it, work load of AFCURE, the Arkansas Fountain Coalition of Urban River Evaluation. It is a collaboration of city, county, utility and non-profit environmental groups working for clean waterways. "As a group we can put our money together to do studies to try to take those issues and figure out the causes and try to fix them," said Pueblo City Waster Water Director, Nancy Keller.
"We know that once we hit the urban corridor that's where we're finding the largest increases," said Plute. The study shows this is a difficult issue. There are multiple sources and locations for the e-coli. "Things like leaky septic systems, particularly in the outer parts of El Paso County. We're also looking at pet waste and other animal waste birds, deer." There is also early evidence an further study happening about homeless camps contributing the problem.
There are times when the water along Fountain Creek is pristine. Anyone who recreates along the stream, however, needs to be aware there are likely as many times when e-coli is above save levels. Contact with it can make you sick.