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Health officials: Small amounts of E. coli found in Squaw Valley resort water

Placer County health officials said small amounts of E. coli and coliform bacteria were found in the drinking water at the Upper Mountain area of Squaw Valley resort.

Small amounts of E. coli and coliform bacteria were found in the drinking water at Squaw Valley's Upper Mountain area, according to Placer County health officials.

The E. coli and coliform present likely weren't dangerous, but "any bacteria detected in drinking water (has) to be dealt with," said Placer County environmental health director Wesley Nicks.

Squaw Valley spokesperson Sam Kieckhefer wrote to News 4-Fox 11 in an email that this summer the resort underwent "an extensive water system upgrade to the wells servicing the High Camp and Gold Coast facilities."

"After the system was certified, tested and returned to service, the region received 9.5 inches of precipitation over a 72 hour period. With the inundation of excess precipitation, water professionals and engineers have required supplemental water sample testing."

News 4 reached out to a Squaw executive and two spokespersons on multiple occasions regarding this story, but none responded to our requests for an interview.

Nicks said the bacteria in one of the four wells in that part of the resort has been resilient through freezing temperatures, but said he expects water quality to return to safe levels in a few days based on how it has improved thus far.

In the meantime, Squaw Valley has posted signs indicating the water is unsafe to drink at drinking fountains, water bottle refilling stations and sinks at locations above base level.

Restaurants in that area of the resort are only selling pre-packaged food. Guests are permitted to wash their hands with the water, and flush the toilets as well.

Some skiers and snowboarders speculated that the bacteria, not a lack of snow, prevented Squaw Valley from opening lifts on the Upper Mountain area before Thanksgiving.

"I'm pretty sure that was the case because they opened up Lower Mountain, Red Dog (chairlift) and Squaw Creek before they opened up Gold Coast," snowboarder Ryan Pool said. "I know some people are kind of disgruntled about it and thought they were getting 'jipped' on their pass but I think Squaw was just looking out for everybody."

Nicks said Squaw Valley officials have been treating the water with chlorine to remove the bacteria.

Kieckhefer added in the email: "Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows is committed to the health and safety of its guests and employees, and will return the High Camp and Gold Coast water facilities to full and normal operation after the testing process is complete and the water supply is determined safe by the water professionals and engineers that have been engaged by Squaw Valley and the Placer County Environmental Health staff."

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