CALL7 Investigators find dangerously high levels of E. coli in flooded homes

LONGMONT, Colo. - As cleanup moves forward in Longmont Greens, one of the hardest hit neighborhoods in Boulder County, resident David Ryan says the work is messy, but someone has to do it.

"It's muck now down there. It's just 4-to-5 inches of gross mud," Ryan said.

But what's really in all that murky water? The CALL7 Investigators wanted to find out, so we collected water samples from inside homes across flood-ravaged communities. The samples were then hand-delivered to Colorado Analytical Laboratories, a state and EPA-certified lab in Lakewood, for E. coli testing.

After a 24-hour hold period, lab owner Shane Neilsen said the results were clear -- each of the standing water samples we provided contained detectable levels of E. coli.

In some of the sample locations, E. coli levels were off the charts. Samples from standing water inside homes in Boulder, Evans and Longmont -- on the same street as David Ryan's home -- all contained higher levels of E. coli than Colorado Analytical Laboratories could even quantify.

"That's very concerning," Ryan said. "So that means as I'm walking around trying to rake the mud, I'm probably standing in that stuff."

Pam Milmoe, Air Quality Coordinator for the Boulder County Public Health Department, says as the floodwater recedes, E. coli may be left behind.

"That water is contaminated and people need to be careful about coming in contact with it," Milmoe said. "Over time we will definitely expect those levels to come down, but we do recommend cleaning with a bleach solution so that proper sanitizing can address the non-porous materials. But the carpet, the carpet pad, the couch -- those are going to have to go."

Those who do not protect themselves from E. coli during cleanup and afterward could end up sick, according to Milmoe.

"Some of the symptoms are abdominal pain, vomiting, upset stomach and skin rashes. You can see skin rashes as a result of direct contact," Milmoe said.

Ryan says he's only dealt with sore muscles so far. But now, he'll be prepared.

"I'll make sure I'm fully dressed to get down in there, that's for sure," Ryan said. "I don't want any of that nonsense, because I've got work to do."

The CALL7 Investigators also tested drinking water in Boulder, Evans, LaSalle and Longmont. These samples all came back negative for E. coli, except for one sample from Longmont which was taken from a garden hose.

Since it's likely the hose came in contact with floodwater, public heath officials advise using bleach to clean all of those outside items, including hoses, to be safe.


If you have a news tip, or follow-up to this story, e-mail Keli Rabon. You can also connect with me on Facebook or through Twitter @KeliRabon.

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