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INVESTIGATIVE REPORT: Do the creeks around Chico have high levels of fecal matter in them?

The special interest group “One Chico,” funded fecal tests to determine if there were any deleterious levels of fecal matter in various swimming holes around Chico.

Posted: Aug 1, 2020 3:12 PM
Updated: Aug 2, 2020 3:33 PM

During these hot summer months many people in Chico may look to hit up one of their favorite swimming holes, but just how clean are they?

The special interest group “One Chico,” funded fecal tests to determine if there were any deleterious levels of fecal matter in various swimming holes around Chico.

“I wouldn’t let my children swim in certain parts of the creek,” said biologist Jody Gallaway.

The company conducting said tests, Fruit Growers Lab (FGL.) It is the same company the city of Chico uses to measure fecal matter in Sycamore East and West pools in Lower Bidwell Park. FGL collected samples from Sycamore East and West, Five mile, Comanche Creek, and Humboldt Park once per week for a span of a month in June and July 2020. The cutoff for this specific test is >1600 per 100ml.

The City of Chico only tests fecal matter to the east and west of Sycamore pool. They use a 5000 ml threshold for testing, according to Linda Herman, the manager of Park and Natural Resources at Chico Public Works.

“For the fecal coliform we had certain levels from zero to 500… If it was over 500 we would retest." Herman said If it was over 5000 per 100 ml of water, “then we would close the pool.”

Three of the five tests show elevated numbers at Humboldt Park, with the highest number there reaching 1600. At that level, under the current city thresholds a retest would be conducted. However, the city does not test Humboldt Park. The rest of the numbers were under the 500 threshold that the city is using.

The city is working with the state on the possibility of updating the current thresholds, said Herman.

The City of Chico also said that the city is moving forward with testing for E. coli in the water, not just fecal matter. E. coli and fecal matter have different thresholds for testing, according to Herman.

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