Unsafe levels of E. coli close county swimming holes

MONKTON — Water quality tests done by the Lewis Creek Association late last week have determined that two swimming sites in northern Addison County are currently unsafe for swimming.
The sites, along Lewis Creek at Route 7 in Ferrisburgh and Tyler Bridge Road in Monkton, tested for unsafe levels of E. coli.
The E. coli levels at Tyler Bridge were 686.7 MPN per 100ml, the unit of measurement used to detect E. coli colonies. The Route 7 site tested at 272.3 MPN per 100ml. The state standard is 77 MPN per 100ml.
E. coli, short for Escherichia coli, is a bacterium that can cause severe food poisoning. It can cause a variety of malaises, including gastroenteritis, urinary tract infections and neonatal meningitis. It is seldom fatal.
Lewis Creek Association Executive Director Marty Illick said the organization annually tests the water quality of swimming holes along the creek’s watershed, which spans the towns of Ferrisburgh, Charlotte, Monkton, Hinesburg, Starksboro and Bristol.
“In the summer season, we test from spring to fall four times at regular intervals,” Illick said.
The samples are then sent to a state laboratory at the University of Vermont for analysis. Illick said the Tyler Bridge Road site has tested positive for unsafe levels of E. coli many times.
“This one has been declared unsafe for 20 years,” Illick said.
Illick said the location has been what researchers call a “hot spot” because it sits downstream from farms in the Starksboro Valley, where cows graze in the stream.
Illick said the state Agency of Agriculture needs to adopt stricter regulations for how much phosphorous and E. coli farms can emit. Both substances are found in animal feces.
“We absolutely need stricter agricultural regulations upstream,” Illick said. “I believe the state is very behind in this matter.”
Illick said the levels found in Monkton, which are nearly 10 times the state standard, are unacceptable.
“It’s not like it’s 200, 250 or 300; it’s 700 and 800,” Illick said. “It’s definitely a problem and the challenge right now is what do you do politically about it?”
Illick said the Lewis Creek Association has not put up signs at the two contaminated swimming holes, but plans to notify county residents through posts on local newspapers, through word of mouth and digital platforms.

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