E. coli mystery keeps park swim spot closed

Elevated levels of E. coli will keep closed a Fruita swim beach this summer.

Swimming has been off- limits for several years at the Fruita section of James Robb Colorado River State Park.

By state law, beaches must be closed for swimming if weekly testing shows the amount of E. coli registers more than 235 E. coli organisms in a 100-milliliter sample of water. E. coli samples in the Fruita swimming area were above 300 E. coli organisms, said Pete Firmin, park manager.

“Ultimately, our hope is that we are able to get the swim beach open at Fruita,” Firmin said.

Much of the reason for the closure is the $40 cost for each test, the need for once-a-week testing and the effort that would be required to remove the E. coli, he said. Also, officials can’t be certain how E. coli is entering the water, and they wouldn’t know how to start fixing the problem, Firmin said.

Three contaminant sources could be the nearby Colorado River, Fruita’s sewer ponds and the presence of geese, which leave droppings that contain the bacteria.

As an alternative, park officials have created a swim beach at the Island Acres section of the park, which is east of Palisade. E. coli levels there spiked at 23.3 parts from a 100-millileter sample, but a subsequent testing registered at 12.2 parts per 100-millileter sample. Those levels are well under the state’s determination of unsafe E. coli levels for swimming.

Levels of E. coli can increase after rainfall if pollution, fecal matter or irrigation water enter the water.

Because E. coli is present in some degree in all natural bodies of water, swimmers are advised not to swallow the water, Mesa County Health Department spokeswoman Kristy Emerson said.


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