Geese Remain Prime Suspects in E. Coli Issue |

Geese Remain Prime Suspects in E. Coli Issue

Terry Thies

Testing – Joint testing of the lake and beaches began on May 2. It is a cooperative effort with Sierra Streams Institute, much the same as last year with a few minor changes. The frequency of testing along the beach shorelines will be modified somewhat, and some testing points in the lake itself will be added. The format that appears on our website will remain the same with one important addition.

Preceding the actual data, as reported last year, will be a map of the lake with green, yellow and red dots representing the location of the tests and the results in a simplified color format. Green represents an E. coli count below recreational levels, yellow represents an Association self imposed cautionary level and red represents an E. coli count above recreational levels.

E. Coli Issues – With the exception of two outlier readings off the beaches in waist deep water, all of our high E. coli readings last summer were at the beach shorelines in ankle deep warm water. Our lake readings, and all of the private shoreline readings taken for and paid for by lake front members, were significantly below recreational levels. The high beach shoreline readings roughly correlated to the presence of geese.

These readings were not uniform at all beaches and were sporadic even at different locations on the same beach. To really get a better set of data to resolve this issue, it will be necessary to eliminate, or at least dramatically reduce, the goose population.

The stream entering Meadow Park chronically had readings higher than recreational levels, however the water flow there is very low in the summer and those high readings disappeared when the water entered the estuary. In short, none of the data suggest that there is any lake wide issue at play here. Our problem is at the shorelines of the beaches in hot weather.

Geese – There is little doubt now that geese are strongly suspected to be at least a catalyst, if not the direct cause, of the high beach shoreline readings. They hang at the shorelines of the beaches and their droppings contain high nutrient levels of phosphorous and nitrogen.

In combination with the high shallow water temperatures in the hot summer months, this can certainly produce a Petri dish like environment that could cause a multiplier effect of bacterial growth. In addition, of the six anal swab samples taken by Federal Wildlife Control personnel on June 29th of last year, 4 samples tested positive for E. coli O157:H7. Also samples of goose fecal matter taken late in the season also showed the presence of O157:H7.

It is this strain of E. coli that can carry the dangerous Shiga toxin implicated in the July, 2017, outbreak. It is now factually correct that geese in Lake Wildwood have been tested and found to be vectoring the E coli O157:H7 strain. The unanswered question is where are they picking it up as geese are not natural producers of toxic E. coli.

County Health Advisory – The County will be updating the Health Advisory to more accurately reflect the data and observations of the 2018 season. We expect to receive that advisory before Memorial Day and will distribute it immediately.

Depredation – The only way to find some of the answers to these questions is to limit the goose population, particularly at the beach shorelines. We are operating under a Federal USDA Depredation Permit that allows us to take a certain number of geese. This permit authorizes us to use pellet guns, shotguns and herding with euthanization.

We have, and will continue to use these methods to reduce our resident goose population. It is unfortunate that we must do this, but the future of our lake and the safety of members and guests is at stake here. We will continue and expand our non-lethal exclusion techniques, but we need the lethal alternative to reduce the numbers of resident geese.

Rumors and Opinions – It is discouraging to read and hear many of the misinformed opinions and rumors about the lake and E. coli issues both from within and outside the Association. LWA has tried to be as transparent as possible about what is taking place within our boundaries.

Posted on our website is an in depth and highly professional paper published by Lake Committee member and microbiologist Bill Yanko explaining all the data, conclusions and recommendations resulting from the robust testing done during the 2018 season. It is a lengthy and very academic paper, but it is a must read for our membership. Don’t leave home without it.

Lake Security Patrol – A major change in the lake security patrol is in the works for this season. In the past, the security boat was manned by Stonegate Security employees. This year the boat will be manned by members of the Recreation Department. Hopefully this will result in a more flexible and accommodative patrol schedule.

All calls to the lake patrol will be handled through Security as it has been in the past. Security will then contact Recreation or leave a message with the appropriate information.

Catch and Release – Lake Wildwood is a catch and release fishing environment. Many foothill lakes, including Lake Wildwood, contain high levels of mercury and that mercury methylates and enters the food chain. The end result is that fish, particularly mature largemouth bass, carry high levels of mercury. The intake of mercury is particularly dangerous during pregnancy.

Mussel Policy – Our Quagga and Zebra mussel policy has been in effect for three seasons now and will continual as long as the threat persists. It is important to remember that when you leave the Association property with a boat, there are only three ways to get back in without quarantine.

The first is to green band the boat to the trailer at the north gate, and the second is to check out at either gate and return within 12 hours. Third, to stay out longer than 12 hours, Security must authorize the trip and will require proof that the boat was where it was supposed to be. Quarantine times range from 46 to 7 days depending on the time of year. Any special situations, like purchase of a new boat, should be cleared with Security, and our new Security Chief is up to speed on the policy.

If you cannot fulfill any of these criteria, the boat will be red banded and the band can only be removed by Security after the quarantine period has ended. The fine for removing and red band and launching into the lake is $5000.

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