4 On Your Side investigates ABQ Uptown water fountain

Posted at: 08/06/2013 10:32 PM
By: Chris Ramirez, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Water tests revealed the water fountain where children play in at ABQ Uptown is severely contaminated with high number of colonies of e-coli and coliform.

The 4 On Your Side team started looking into the situation after a mother emailed.  She said her toddler smelled like raw sewage after playing in the fountain for an hour. 

It’s easy to find kids splashing around in the water during warm summer days.  There are no signs posted by management to discourage it and there are even rail guards in place to help kids get into the fountain.

"The problem is this water feature is considered a fountain," said Mark DiMenna, Deputy Director of the Environmental Health Dept. “It's not a permitted or inspected water feature at all. So it's really being used for purposes not intended for."

DiMenna said allowing children to play in the ABQ Uptown water is like allowing them to swim in the large fountain in front of City Hall downtown.  The water is not cleaned, chlorinated, or filtered downtown, but there are posted signs discouraging getting into the water.

4 On Your Side collected water samples and followed an independent lab’s instructions.  KOB-TV paid for the results and turned them over to the City of Albuquerque.

"You've got a contaminated sample," Dimenna said.  "Because kids play in the water, we have to follow drinking water standards."

DiMenna said the acceptable level of e-coli and coliform for a water feature where kids play is 0 CFU/100ml.  Our testing showed coliform reached 1,203 CFU/100ml and e-coli reached 866 CFU/ml.  Both types of bacteria come from fecal matter and can cause diarrhea.  In a worst-case scenario, kidney failure or urinary tract infections can occur from these bacteria.

The day 4 On Your Side turned the lab results over to the City of Albuquerque, inspectors went to ABQ Uptown shut the fountain down.

"The fountain is going to stay off until they either operate it or permit it like a pool facility that we can regulate in some way," DiMenna said. 

4 On Your Side asked ABQ Uptown management for an on-camera interview.  Managers refused to answer any of our questions and gave us this statement instead:

"After an unsubstantiated report of a possible illness related to the water feature on our property, we immediately shut off the water feature.  The safety and well-being of our customers is our priority and we will thoroughly investigate the situation with city authorities."

Because ABQ Uptown refused our questions, it’s not clear why children were permitted to play in unregulated and contaminated water.  But the city’s environmental health department’s message is clear; the water was never meant for children’s play. 

4 On Your Side water fountain files