Swimming in a cow toilet: Majority of Wyoming’s waters lose protections from fecal bacteria

For Immediate Release

September 14, 2017

Jonathan Ratner, Western Watersheds Project (877) 746-3628

Swimming in a cow toilet: Majority of Wyoming’s waters lose protections from fecal bacteria

PINEDALE, Wyo. – In a disheartening development for Wyoming’s waters, yesterday the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the state’s reclassification and downgrade of nearly 80 percent of watercourses to “secondary contact” waters, meaning they can contain five times the level of E. coli bacteria than previously allowed. This relaxes the “swimmable/fishable” requirement of the Clean Water Act for the majority of streams, creeks, and rivers in the state.

“Rather than meet the safe levels of water quality for human contact in all of Wyoming’s rivers and creeks, the livestock industry has successfully lobbied the Wyoming Department of Water Quality and the federal government to simply change the rules,” said Jonathan Ratner, Wyoming Director of Western Watersheds Project. “It’s disgusting for people and bad for wildlife, but apparently, the only thing that matters is what is good for the livestock industry’s bottom line.”

The categorical downgrade was proposed in 2015 and encountered strong resistance from recreational users of Wyoming’s public lands. The Wyoming DEQ went forward with the reclassification and downgrade, allowing the livestock industry to escape regulation under pollution standards.

E. coli levels above ‘primary contact’ levels pose a risk of serious, at times even fatal, infections,” added Ratner. “This is especially a concern for children playing in streams and lakes, who might occasionally take in a gulp of water. This downgrade in water quality standards poses a safety risk for Wyoming residents and the millions of out-of-state tourists who visit the state every year.”

Click here for copy of the letter from the EPA.

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