For Immediate Release
June 15, 2021, Jackson, WY – Signs will be posted this week on portions of Fish Creek and Flat Creek warning recreational users of elevated levels of Escherichia coli bacteria (E. coli). This signage was first placed in August 2020 under the authority of Travis Riddell, MD, MPH, the Teton District Health Officer.
The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (WYDEQ) designates sections of Fish Creek and Flat Creek as Impaired Waterways under their rules regarding maximum concentrations of E. coli in waters that are used for primary contact recreation during the summer recreation season. Primary contact recreation includes swimming, float tubing, or in some manner being fully submerged in the water. These designations are based on data collected by WYDEQ in 2017, when sampling showed the concentrations of E. coli to exceed an average of 126 organisms per 100 milliliters during a consecutive 60-day period. The sampling taken in 2017 only determined the total amount of E. coli present, it did not determine the origin of the E. coli in the waterways.
This summer a University of Wyoming graduate student will be conducting a study funded by the Wyoming Water Research Program to determine the sources of E. coli found in Fish and Flat Creek. The project will use current genetic techniques to determine the sources contributing to the E. coli concentrations found in these local waterways.
E. coli are a diverse group of bacteria found in the environment, foods, and intestines of animals and people. E. coli is used as a fecal indicator bacteria and is a measure of how much fecal material is present in a waterbody. E. coli concentrations are used as a proxy for the risk of ingesting fecal pathogens. Most strains are harmless, but four groups are well known to be transmitted via contaminated food or water and can cause illness if they are swallowed. Symptoms vary for each person but often include gastrointestinal illness (such as stomach cramps and diarrhea). Individuals more at risk from E. coli are infants and young children since they are more likely to ingest water when recreating, the elderly, or people with severely compromised immune systems.
Signage will be posted near put-in locations used by float tubers on Fish Creek, specifically near Hunt Bridge and on the U.S. Forest Service property directly upstream from Hunt Bridge. Signage will also be posted on Flat Creek near the Hay Barn Bridge on the South Park Feedgrounds and at the swimming hole at the confluence of Flat Creek and the Snake River on VonGontard’s Landing.
The signage will state that this is a Public Advisory Impaired Waterway and that bacterial levels in these waters at times exceed recommended Department of Environmental Quality Standards. It is recommended that swimming or float tubing in these waters should be avoided.
Refer to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more information on E. coli bacteria. The rules governing surface water quality standards in Wyoming can be accessed by clicking here.