DENVER — It’s that time of the year: splash pads across Denver are packed as temperatures flirt with triple digits. But beware — the FOX31 Problem Solvers are finding unwelcome bacteria lurking in the water kids enjoy.
Dirty diapers in and around splash pads are often thought of as a likely source of E. coli contamination.
On July 11, the Problem Solvers — partnering with a local lab — collected water from five of Denver’s most popular splash pads. FOX31 collected water from splash pads at Union Station, City Park, Central Park, Montbello Recreation Center and the Denver Art Museum.
Denver Parks and Recreation says its splash pads are cleaned every week. Also, each week, systems that measure pH and chlorine levels are monitored. But the city does not regularly test for bacteria. Pathogen testing only happens in certain cases of public health concern or outbreak, officials said.
“We have various test kits that allow us to actually collect samples on site at the time of our inspection,” said Danica Lee with Denver’s Department of Public Health and Environment.
Out of the five splash pads the Problem Solvers visited, just one tested positive for E. coli — City Park — just west of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Denver says the City Park location, known as H2Odyssey, is inspected and cleaned every Monday. FOX31’s sample was collected on Thursday, July 11.
“We’re certainly evaluating the information that [FOX31] provided to us last week and trying to take a broader look to understand — do we need to make some adjustments here to make sure that the public is always well protected?” Lee said.
E. coli are a large and diverse group of bacteria. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says most strains are harmless, but others can make people sick, causing diarrhea, urinary tract infections, respiratory illness and pneumonia.
As soon as the Problem Solvers discovered E. coli at H2Odyssey, they alerted city officials.
“We immediately shut down H2Odyssey,” said Bill Nuanes with Denver Parks and Recreation.
H2Odyssey was shut down for a week while staff cleaned the area and tested the water. The city says its test also found E. coli, but not at alarming levels. There was less than 1 per 100 milliliters of E. coli, according to officials.
Experts say parents should check their babies for dirty diapers before playing in splash pads and pools.