Pets become suspects in creek E. Coli study

       No conclusions can be drawn yet, but early data from a Fountain Creek water quality study is showing pets as a prevalent E. Coli contributor between Manitou Springs and Monument Creek.
       The study by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) is required because of previous findings that the creek in that area did not meet federal standards for E. Coli (a scientific term for animal or human waste bacteria).
       The latest information was presented at a Sept. 11 public meeting, called by the USGS.
       Don Stoeckel, the USGS microbiologist heading up the study, reported pets as a potential source of “minor,” “some” or “major” E. Coli in 8 of 15 readings on three different dates (Oct. 22, Feb. 8 and May 1).
       Two stations used in the testing were above Ruxton Creek's confluence with Fountain, one at the mouth and two below. All but two of the minor/some/major findings for pets were in the lower two stations.
       “Major” human sources were also found on each of the three dates at the two lower stations.
       It's not yet known exactly how or where these pollutants are getting into the stream, Stoeckel said. At a study-introduction meeting last January, it was announced that preliminary sampling had revealed sewage leaks along Ruxton Creek. But these have since been fixed, and the only noticeable E. Coli found on the three dates at the Ruxton-Fountain mouth were pets (minor, May 1), Stoeckel's data shows.
       At the end of the study, there will be nine days worth of verified testing data, he said at the meeting. He repeated a request for anyone who may have news on contamination sources to call in. Because Stoeckel is from out of state, the best contact number is the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments at 471-7080 x127.
       Using DNA tracking methods, biologists have separated sources into four categories - human, pets, cattle (which includes mule deer) and elk. The latter two showed up as a “possible major source” only once each in the 15 samples.
       Another public meeting is to be scheduled several months from now.

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