As Denver plans zoo audit, officials change the water

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DENVER -- Denver’s top auditor has announced plans to audit one of the city’s top attractions: The Denver Zoo. Officials with the auditor’s office told FOX31 Denver that the scope of the audit has not yet been defined.

While it will mostly likely include topics such as the waste to energy converter, it is unclear whether it will include the recycle water program adopted for the zoo’s four elephants.

Wednesday, Denver Zoo officials confirmed they have stopped the elephants drinking from recycled water.

According to the Denver Water Department, recycled water is water that can originate in places such as toilets but is filtered and treated several times before reaching the animals.

“We contacted the USDA and decided to switch our drinking water for our elephants,” said Brian Aucone, vice president for animal care and conservation at the zoo.

The U.S. Agriculture Department has recommended for years that recycled water not be given to animals. Aucone said the zoo did this out of an abundance of caution after trees started dying in Washington Park, potentially the result of recycled water.

When asked if the elephants were ever in danger Aucone responded, “Absolutely not.”

He stressed that certified veterinarians at the zoo believe the recycled water is fine and have signed off on the elephants to continue to bathe in the water.

Aucone said no taxpayer money was used on the recycled water program. The estimated cost for that program is about $20,000.

“I am thrilled that they've made that change,” said Bridget Walsh, a "watchdog" at the zoo.

Walsh said she has contacted the zoo for months regarding the issue of water safety for the animals.

“I think Shannon, the new CEO of the zoo, is demonstrating real leadership there,” Walsh said. “It’s going to be interesting to see what the auditor comes up with.”