Kitchen and shower water from the nearby Hendrix fire camp mistakenly was pumped into Cantrall-Buckley Park’s drinking water supply, tainting the water with bacteria and possibly sickening some campers and others who drank it.
A park volunteer host accidentally directed the driver of a tanker with 1,000 gallons of the fire camp’s gray water to the park’s 10,000-gallon potable water tank for dumping on the evening of July 18, according to the Jackson County Parks Department.
The water was supposed to be dumped into a nearby pipe that flows into an artificial wetland used to filter gray water at the park, county parks Manager Steve Lambert said.
The mistake went unnoticed until Monday morning, when a park ranger chatting with the tanker driver learned of where he had dumped the water, Lambert said.
Parks officials immediately closed access to the water and notified state and county health officials, Lambert said.
Tests of the water Monday showed the presence of E. coli and coliform bacteria, said Chad Peterson, the environmental health director for the Jackson County Health and Human Services Department.
The park’s water system was flushed and work was underway Tuesday to clean and disinfect the system, and crews hoped to be finished by Thursday, Lambert said. Water in the system will be sampled to ensure it meets state drinking water standards before the faucets will be turned on at the park and campground.
Park visitors who drank the water any time from Wednesday evening until the contamination was discovered Monday morning could be at risk for health effects ranging from nausea and vomiting to cramps, headaches, jaundice and fatigue, parks officials said.
Infants, seniors, women who are pregnant and those with compromised immune systems could face increased risks.
Peterson said Tuesday that health officials have not discovered anyone sickened by exposure to the water. Those who do get sick should see their primary health care provider and notify county health officials at 541-774-8206, Peterson said.
Camper Tiphanie Hulse said she drank the water every day during the contamination period and didn’t notice a change in the water or get sick.
“We even made sun tea with it,” Hulse said. “Nothing.”