How clear are urban creeks? Health officials say not very

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by GLENN FARLEY / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on June 18, 2010 at 4:42 PM

Updated Friday, Jun 18 at 6:15 PM

SEATTLE - In a creek which flows to the beach in Golden Gardens park, the water is crystal clear.  But is it squeaky clean?
  
The creek is a kid magnet, and in the relative warmth of this Friday, we saw plenty of kids playing in the creek. But how is a parent to know?  There are no signs, nothing to suggest that the water in the creek is anything but fine.

A viewer email brought the issue of creek bacterial levels to our attention. The results of tests posted on the website belonging to Surfrider.org suggests that on tests conducted June 9th, fecal coliform levels in the creek were high, and E. coli bacteria levels had moved from low to moderate levels.

But as we researched this story we found that while there is routine testing of bacteria levels at the region's beaches by the Seattle King County Health department and other agencies, almost no one is looking at the water quality in creeks.

In fact, Charles Wu with the Seattle King County Health Department says people should stay out of urban creeks altogether.  The reason is pet and wild animal waste coming from upstream, not to mention pesticides, lawn fertilizers and other chemical pollutants that come downstream in a more concentrated form before they are diluted by the much larger waters of Puget Sound. 

Wu says exposure to the water can lead to intestinal upset, diarrhea and even vomiting.

Restore Our Waters

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