A water quality report from the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (WYDEQ) indicates that samples collected over the summer at two E. coli monitoring locations on Fish Creek and one on Flat Creek exceeded the State’s primary contact recreation criteria.
WYDEQ defines primary contact recreation as any recreational use that could result in ingestion of the water or immersion (full body contact).
At this time, members of the public are advised to use caution when recreating in Fish Creek, especially full body submersion or accidental ingestion of the water.
Dr. Riddell, Teton County Health Officer states, “Anytime you are recreating in natural bodies of water you should use caution and never assume that the water is free from E. coli and other pathogens.” Dr. Riddell went on to say that, “Young children, the elderly and immunocompromised individuals are more susceptible to illness should use caution if recreating in Fish Creek, Flat Creek and other waterways over Labor Day weekend.”
In the past, genetic testing has determined that the E. coli bacteria in the Fish Creek Basin has come primarily from wildlife.
Dr. Riddell explains, “E. coli 0157:H7 and other strains of disease-causing E. coli are common in the gut of ruminant wildlife like deer and elk and have been found in birds, as have Salmonella and Campylobacter.”
The Teton Conservation District (TCD) is recommending additional testing to identify the sources of E. coli be completed prior to management discussions. Mitigation and management strategies vary greatly depending on the sources of the contamination.
Carlin Girard, Water Resources Specialist at the TCD hopes that this study helps to build awareness about the risk of ingesting untreated water from local waterways.
“More data will need to be collected in order for natural resource agencies to respond with management actions,” says Girard. He discussed the value of the TCD model for addressing water quality issues, “We rely on partnerships and data to guide actions that protect and improve our waterways. The existing Stakeholder efforts in these watersheds has built the relationships, and now we need E. coli source tracking data.”
TCD will be pushing for genetic E. coli testing to be done in the summer of 2018.
Sampling occurred approximately every two weeks from May 9, 2017 to August 10, 2017 at all locations.
Samples were collected in Fish Creek adjacent to Fish Creek Road on U.S. Forest Service property and upstream of the Wilson Bridge.
Additional samples were collected from three locations on Flat Creek, with one site, located on the South Park Feed Ground exceeding E. coli standards.
One location was also tested on the Snake River that did not exceed standards.