The presence of E. coli in surface waters is almost always attributed to fecal contamination whether from untreated sewage, feces from wildlife, waterfowl, domestic pets, and/or farm animals. Lake Wildwood in No Cal is experiencing an E. coli event that has sent 9 people to the hospital, 3 of whom are in the ICU and in critical condition. The Lake Wildwood administration sent an email yesterday, claiming the water is checked weekly for contaminants. However, they did admit to leaving out an important test which is testing the sand where it meets the water, called the shore.

Instead, they tested deeper waters, not the waters where small children play.

The how of it all

Now that we know the lake is contaminated, that brings up the question of how? Since the homeowners association has admitted to not testing the shores, we really don’t know if the high concentration of E. coli is normal for those areas of the beach during the summer. The Canadian geese contamination at Commodore Park beach, Meadow Park beach, and Hideaway is extreme. LWW did an egg-oiling operation many years ago to try and stop the constant fouling, but the number of geese has increased since then and the situation is as bad as it was before the oiling.

There is another matter to take into consideration.

These three parks receive tributary water from one side of the watershed. The other two parks that do not have high E. coli are opposite these beaches and their tributary streams are different from the contaminated side of the lake. While lake residents and those just outside the gate do not have septic tanks, those homes up the hill from the north side of LWW do have septic tanks.

In No Cal, we had torrential winter rains that overwhelmed septic systems, but the problem here is that the winter rains are long gone. One unusual item is that the tributary streams are still running, which has not happened for quite some time. Generally they are dry by this time.

Another theory is that waves from boats crashing against the shore stir up the sand beneath them, kicking E.

coli onto the sand. However, Hideaway is a cove and has no waves and Meadow Park beach is situated in such a way that it receives very few waves, and one of the beaches that is safe has a constant influx of waves from passing boats.

Dog poop is another matter. Dogs are not allowed on the beaches or the grass. However, people do walk their dogs in residential areas and not everyone picks up the poop. That means it goes into the soil and then into the culverts and down into the lake. Animal manure and biosolids are used to fertilize fields and lawns which can and does pour into Lake Wildwood from lakefront homes. Yes, the lawns are lovely to look at, but the fertilizer feeds the pond and dumps phosphorous into the water.

If this continues, the lake is doomed. Let the lawns and flowers die or just use fertilizer that does no harm to the ecosystem. If the plea doesn't work then the let the drop in your housing prices do the trick. Or perhaps we might take a look at what fertilizers are used on the golf course, how often, and how much so that an open and honest discussion can take place. A beautiful green is not worth a destroyed ecosystem.

The many factors

Lake Wildwood has an abundance of geese and they are a source of contamination. We had heavy rains last winter which compromised septic systems in the watershed, and we have dogs and other wildlife that poop on the land and their feces is swept into the waters where our children play.

In addition to all that, we are in the middle of a heat wave that has lasted for weeks.

Beaches from all over the country close due to fecal contamination. A septic tank breaks, a sewage line leaks, and sometimes there is the perfect storm that breaks an ecosystem and makes it sick. I suspect that that may be the case in Lake Wildwood. Reasonable measures must be taken. Get rid of the geese, clean up after our dogs, stop fertilizing the lawns, check the sewers, and leave the rest to nature. Perhaps if we follow protocol, our lake will recover and be given a second chance.