South Platte River still holding high levels of bacteria

Posted at 6:15 AM, May 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-18 18:53:11-04

DENVER -- A popular summer spot where people go to cool off in Denver is still showing high levels of the E. coli bacteria.

Hundreds of people come to Confluence Park in downtown Denver during the summer months to swim, kayak or tube the South Platte River. 

"It's really busy, and if you're lucky, you'll get a spot close to the water," said Brinle Duncan. 

Duncan said she visits Confluence Park a few times during the summer, usually taking a tube down the river on the hot days. 

If you take a visit to the park, you can see trash piling up along the river’s edge. The water from rains end up at the river through the city's drains. The river looks polluted. Still, you can find people who will go in.

"The city doesn't recommend it, and according to the city's municipal code, it’s not legal to swim, but we don't stop people," Jon Novick said.

Novick tests the water weekly for levels of E. coli. He’s an environmental administrator with the city. He said he's been testing for 15 years. 

"For as long as we've been monitoring, they've been high," Novick said.

Signs alerting people about the bacteria levels are posted at the park. Novick said people should stay out of the river if they have open cuts. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control, most strains of E. coli are harmless, but some can get you sick. The bacteria is common in urban areas. 

Denver7 checked with the city to see what it’s doing to improve the quality of water. 

Denver's Public Works said it’s installing a system that works to weed out E. coli. The system will treat the storm water before its dumped into the river. The goal is to have cleaner water by 2020. 

But, the city's booming growth is causing challenges. 

"The growth of our city and the increasing density of our city is a challenge for us. We have more people here now," said Nancy Kuhn, Denver Public Works spokesperson. 

Kuhn said Denver is on track to meet the 2020 goals for water quality. 

Residents can do some things to help:

  • Don't litter 
  • Don't over fertilize your lawn
  • Don't pour anything into a storm water inlet
  • Don't wash your car in the driveway, instead take it to a car wash that will treat water before disposing it