Small dog park users worried about ponds' water quality

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COLUMBIA - Local dog owners want the Parks and Recreation department to clean up the pond area of the Twin Lakes Small Dog Park.

A group of small dog owners meets at the park every morning to allow their dogs to explore the area, get some exercise and take an occasional swim in the small pond within the park's gates.

"Our biggest concern has been the water in the small lake," dog owner Elizabeth Nelms said. "Its full now because of the rain but it has had algae all summer and they come out with it all over them."

The water at the dog park looked very different before the recent rain refilled it to its proper levels (see picture below).


Owners said Parks and Recreation visited the park to drain the pond towards the end of the summer due to heavy rain causing it to spill into the dry areas of the park.

After the water was drained, owners said they began noticing changes in the water. They said the smell was terrible, they saw green algae from the shoreline to the middle of the lake and their pets were getting sick after swimming and drinking the water.

Frequent user Carol Shaw said she knows dogs that play in the water get diarrhea, and have had to go to the vet.

"One owner's dog has gotten staph infections, several times, and she feels it's from the water," said Shaw. "There's no filter or aeration, it's just stagnant water. It would just be nice to have clean water like the big dog park."

Users of the small dog park said they have contacted Parks and Recreation many times about their concerns but they haven't seen anyone come out and test the area.

Park Services Manager Gabe Huffington said the pond water comes from a source that is tested regularly.

"The large lake, the one that we can actually move water in and out of, that lake is tested on a monthly basis. They test it for fecal chloroform and also for e-coli. Every single test has passed," Huffington said. "We know that the lake water is safe."

Parks and Recreation said the only thing that could contaminate the water could be leftover dog waste in the park.

"Any dog waste that is left in that park will ultimately feed towards that small body of water anytime it rains," Huffington said. "We encourage park users to pick up after their pets because that is the biggest key in water quality."

Parks and Recreation said anyone who thinks their dog may have gotten sick from the water should visit their veterinarian.

"The veterinarian is the only person that could actually do the test on their dog to tell them the types of issues that they have. The only thing that we can do is give them the water reports and let them know that based on the large lake; this is the water quality that we have," Huffington said.

Parks and Recreation said it would work on improving the park during the winter months when dogs and dog owners utilize the off-season area, but if owners are still having problems, they should contact the department.

"Let us know if they continue to have issues and we'll try to work with them as much as possible. We're doing everything that we can in our power to make sure that its safe for all people and pets." Huffington said.

The park users who talked to KOMU 8 News said they make sure to pick up after their dogs and remind others to do so. They plan to let their dogs continue playing in the water, take them to the vet regularly and hope some of the park improvements will involve the water in the small dog area.