Boise & Garden City

E. coli levels are dropping in Boise ponds — but don’t go jump in the water yet

E. coli found in local swimming ponds

Both Esther Simplot ponds and Quinn’s Pond, which are adjacent to each other, showed bacterial cultures above state water quality standards for recreational use during a test last week.
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Both Esther Simplot ponds and Quinn’s Pond, which are adjacent to each other, showed bacterial cultures above state water quality standards for recreational use during a test last week.

Boise is staring down a high temperature of 97 degrees on Monday, but you still can’t cool off with a dip in Quinn’s Pond, according to city officials.

Last week, the popular swimming and paddleboarding spot and its neighboring Esther Simplot Park ponds tested positive for unsafe levels of E. coli bacteria, according to Boise Parks and Recreation. The ponds have been closed to the public since, with signs placed around their perimeters and maintenance teams on-site daily to deter any potential swimmers.

“We have been flushing the ponds with water from the river,” said Doug Holloway, director of Parks and Recreation. “Preliminary test results still show some (bacteria) numbers have gone down, but it’s not enough to lift those closures.”

Holloway said it’s the first time that Quinn’s Pond has closed because of E. coli. The pond did test above safe levels once in 2014, he said, but by the following day had returned below them.

Normally, the series of ponds is tested weekly. Since the closure, city agencies have tested the pond water daily, watching for a stable downward trend. Daily testing will continue for a bit even after the ponds reopen.

“We don’t want to get into that whiplash, opening and closing the park,” Holloway said.

E. coli has the potential to cause serious illness. Symptoms include diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.

Central District Health on Thursday said it had received “a few reports” from people who suspected they may have become ill after spending time in the ponds.

While the cause of the increased bacteria levels hasn’t been identified, Holloway said he hopes conclusive test results will come back this week. He said a whole host of things could have ratcheted up E. coli numbers in the ponds — anything from recreation-related causes to contamination from the different species of wildlife in the area.

One thing that’s certainly helpful, Holloway said, is how well Boiseans have adhered to the pond closures.

“It gives us the opportunity to clear up (the ponds) quicker and get them back open,” Holloway said.

He knows people are disappointed at the closures, particularly as temperatures in the Treasure Valley continue to climb.

“We’re in 95-plus-degree weather, and people have waited a full 18 months for Esther Simplot to be open so they can use it on a day like today,” Holloway said. “But we’re not opening the ponds up until we’re certain it’s safe.”

Nicole Blanchard: 208-377-6410, @NMBlanchard

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