Lake Eboli—’We are Walking a Fine Line…’
November 20, 2017
On Wednesday, November 15, members of Lake Wildwood Association Administration, Board of Directors, and Lake Committee met with representatives from Nevada County Health, Environmental Health, Public Works and Community Development Departments. Also present was the County Health Physician. Although many varied subjects were discussed, the main thrust of the meeting was twofold. First was to explore how LWA and the County can cooperate and work more closely together. Secondly, how to formulate a formal plan going forward to determine the most probable cause of the E. coli outbreak, and plan a definitive schedule and testing protocol for reopening the beaches and lifting the no swim advisory next season.
With the goal of promoting cooperation, we asked for more direct participation in the day-to-day process of meetings and interfacing with the agencies involved in the investigation, as well as County personnel. We feel that our Lake Committee member Bill Yanko has the background and experience to represent us well and is eminently qualified to participate in this process. This is our lake that has closed beaches and swimming advisories, and it is our safety and reputation that is at stake. The County is in a somewhat difficult position as part of its function is one of a regulatory body, and it must maintain this investigation without conflicts of interest. To some extent, our participation in this process could be construed as a conflict of interest. The other edge to that sword is that some of the issues being explored in the investigation are directly related to County control. We are walking a fine line here.
Given this dilemma, and the complexity and difficulty of this investigation, the County feels the best way to go forward is to engage a highly qualified third party to lead the investigation. We agree and support this decision, as it can solve many of the issues about which we and the County are concerned. The third party would come from a neutral organization, and have experience in water borne diseases, and have microbial testing capability. We know the County has been interviewing several potential candidates and hopefully they will announce a contract in place very soon. We have been assured that LWA will have the ability to share our knowledge and data with this new individual and stay in the loop as things progress. The scope of work for this third party shall be:
1. Review all existing testing, CDC (Center for Disease Control) testing reports and investigation activities to date.
2. Review radius (size TBD) around Lake Wildwood for possible inflow contamination. This will include farms, cattle ranches, streams, and other inflow sources.
3. Formulate an assessment of testing recommendations to include type of testing/analysis, type of sample collection and justification for needed testing.
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4. Perform sample collection and laboratory testing/analysis as needed.
5. Create a summary document that will include:
a) Current overall summary of lake health
b) Recommendations for annual testing which will be required for LWA to implement
c) Recommendations for permanent signage and location of signage
d) Recommendations on wildlife and preventative actions
e) Timeline for lake opening
These are going to be big shoes to fill, but it is the best way to go forward to solve the problem that affects us all.
Of further note, a technical question was raised during the meeting about the CDC test results indicating that E. coli O157:H7 containing goose genetic markers were detected in water and wet sand samples. County staff promised to follow up, and we received a prompt response from CDC. Without getting into some detailed microbiological and genetic details, the response from CDC provided additional confirmation regarding the reliability of that assessment. It is definitive that the O157:H7 in the water and sand were related to the geese. In addition to that confirmation, CDC also reported they had completed "genetic fingerprinting" of the O157:H7 strains detected in the water and sand. It was confirmed they were the same strain as the clinical isolates recovered from the sick people. We now have a more definitive picture establishing that the strain that caused the illnesses was present in a goose fecal sample from the land and in the water and wet sand along the shoreline. Where the geese acquired the O157:H7 strain remains unknown. There are many potential sources in the watershed where geese may graze.