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Wastewater discharge triggered E. coli warning for Arkansas River

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Posted at 8:14 PM, May 20, 2021

PUEBLO, Colorado — Signs were posted along the Arkansas River in Pueblo last week warning the public of elevated levels of Escherichia Coli bacteria in the water after some 8.99 million gallons of partially treated wastewater was discharged into a tributary by the Pueblo West Metropolitan District.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reports that the discharge event began on May 8 and was reported by the district on May 9.

"We worked diligently and followed Pueblo County Department of Health and Environment's guidance on information to post to specific areas while we monitored the higher levels of e. coli," said Samantha Dosen, Community and Public Relations Manager for the Metro District in a statement.

The water district posted signs near the kayak park in the levee and notified downstream utilities about the discharge. As of Sunday, May 16, the levels of bacteria had fallen back below the permitted limits. The warning signs were removed Thursday since there was no longer a public health threat.

E. coli is one of the multiple pollutants that county, state, and federal environmental regulators track. Compliance data published online through the Environmental Protection Agency's Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) database shows that seven-day average E. coli measurements reported by the metro district exceeded 150 fecal coliform bacteria (colonies) per 100 milliliters six times in the past 5 years. The EPA standard for a seven-day average is 250 coliforms per 100 milliliters.

The most current reports available in the ECHO database are from February of 2021.

E. Coli measurements from the May 8-9 discharge were not immediately available.

"The state recognizes this occurrence should not have happened and will be evaluating potential violations associated with this event, and have worked with the district to evaluate their processes so this wouldn't happen again," Erin Garcia, Marketing and Communication Specialist for the CDPHE, said in a statement.

Garcia added Colorado Parks officers have surveyed the area to monitor impacts on aquatic life. No fish kills were reported as a result of the elevated E. Coli levels.