BOISE, Idaho — Boise Parks and Recreation says recent water quality test results show rising levels of E. coli bacteria at Esther Simplot Park Pond 1 and along the beach at Quinn's Pond. Signs are posted at both beaches warning users to swim at their own risk.
Right now, E. coli levels are higher than state levels for recreational swim beaches and the city is recommending people swim in other areas until levels come down.
Water quality tests are done weekly at Esther Simplot Park, Veterans Pond and Quinn's Pond from April through September and the leading cause of E. Coli is waste from dogs, geese and humans.
"They are not extremely high that is why we are going with the warnings and we just want that to be an educational piece for our public so they understand there are elevated levels of bacteria," said Doug Holloway the Boise Parks and Recreation director. "You are swimming at your own risk and there are some precautions you can take at the end of your swim make sure you shower, please don’t drink the water and don’t bring your dogs to the ponds.”
The City of Boise has invested in a variety of upgrades aimed at improving water quality in Esther Simplot Park and Quinn's Pond. The changes include the installation of underwater aerators in both Quinn's Pond and Esther Simplot Pond to help with water circulation and a pilot project that introduced river water into the ponds.
A news release from the city says the project showed promising results and it has moved forward with a permanent river intake. This year, a larger freshwater pipe was installed to introduce more freshwater into the ponds. The city is looking to get more water rights to keep water moving through the area in the summer months, with work scheduled to be finished after the irrigation season.
The City is also working on geese management plans, dog restrictions, public education and new bathroom facilities on site.
“Our team is doing everything we can to increase the flow of water through the ponds, improve water circulation and address bacteria,” said Boise Parks and Recreation Director Doug Holloway. “We encourage people to visit the new Bernardine Quinn Riverside Park on the southeast side of Quinn’s Pond where test results show bacteria levels remain low. Veterans Pond and Esther Simplot Park Pond 2 are also open for swimming, paddling, and fishing.”
The general rule of thumb is that bacteria and blue-green algae occur in standing water so alternatives like the Boise River are a safer option in terms of avoiding the bacteria, the city also has several pools open for public use.
The public can help by using some of those alternatives and that is what Alice Bassett did after reading the warning sign, she made the quick trip over to the Boise River to the island area the city installed during construction of the whitewater park so her grandkids had a safe place to cool off.
“You are able to have safe water because it’s moving water and I'm in a place where the river won't carry them away," said Bassett. "I think that was great that they informed us I read the sign."
Central District Health has not received any reports of people getting sick after swimming at the ponds. Use at Quinn's Pond and Esther Simplot Park has been high and officials expect it to remain that way.
Here are some important safety reminders if you plan to visit the City of Boise’s ponds that are open for swimming and wading:
- Don't drink the water
- Wash your hands after swimming or recreate
- Be sure to shower after being in the water
- Dogs are not allowed in the ponds
- Don't feed geese or ducks
- Alcohol is not allowed at the ponds
- Lifeguards are not on duty