E. coli infestation at Nevada County’s Lake Wildwood remains a mystery, officials say | TheUnion.com

E. coli infestation at Nevada County’s Lake Wildwood remains a mystery, officials say

An E. coli outbreak that affected 18 individuals this summer was linked to elevated levels of the bacteria at Lake Wildwood.
Elias Funez/efunez@theunion.com |

Beaches remain closed at Nevada County’s Lake Wildwood, where officials continue to test the water for elevated levels of E. coli on a twice-weekly basis.

In late July, the Nevada County Public Health Department began receiving reports of numerous individuals experiencing E. coli-related illness. An investigation into the outbreak revealed that many of the 18 affected individuals had contracted the bacteria after swimming in Lake Wildwood.

Amy Irani, director of the Nevada County Environmental Health Department, said recent tests show levels of E. coli in the water remain elevated. But as colder weather approaches, she expects those levels to drop.

“E. coli bacteria don’t like cold temperatures,” Irani said. “They don’t propagate as rapidly.”

Irani’s department is working closely with other county and state agencies to investigate possible sources of the contamination.

So far, no clues have been revealed, she said.

On Aug. 13, weeks after county officials initially closed Lake Wildwood’s public beaches, a power outage near the gated community caused a wastewater pump station to fail, resulting in an estimated 1,680 gallons of sewage spilling into the lake.

Irani said there’s “no way to truly quantify” whether that spill had any additional effect on the lake’s E. coli levels.

Bob Mariani, general manager of the Lake Wildwood Association, said a health advisory remains in effect at the lake, warning residents and guests not to swim in the water. But some residents continue to swim, he said, despite the warning.

“There’s no way to patrol everything that goes on out there,” he said.

According to Mariani, the lake closure has been a disappointment for many Wildwood residents, many of whom, he said, revere the lake as the neighborhood’s greatest asset.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Pera, email mpera@theunion.com or call 530-477-4231.

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