Bacteria at Kiefer Creek
“One Sick Puppy”
Kiefer Creek was first brought to the attention of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment by Steve Seyer. In the summer of 2009, Steve went on jogs with his dog, Dolphus, in the watershed, and after his runs he let Dolphus cool down in Kiefer Creek. Dolphus started to develop some troubling health problems: lumps on his back, black discharge from his eyes, and diarrhea, all of which are symptoms of overexposure to bacteria. After Steve stopped letting Dolphus go into the creek, Dolphus’ health problems cleared up.
Seyer had seen a USGS water quality monitoring station just upstream of Castlewood Park, so, curious about the creek, he found the data on the internet. He saw that the bacteria levels in the creek were regularly much higher than the levels deemed safe for swimming according to the EPA. This data ended in 2003, but there was other testing being done downstream by the Missouri Sewer District.
Thanks to the efforts of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, this data was made public, and it showed that Kiefer Creek still has significant bacteria contamination. With the evidence presented by this testing data, Kiefer Creek was placed on the 303(d) List of Impaired Waters for exceeding the safe level of bacteria for recreational use.
It is likely that the bacteria contamination is from a number of non-point sources in the watershed. The Kiefer Creek watershed has septic systems, horses, lots of wildlife and domesticated pets, as well as an increasing area of impervious surfaces that could be delivering significant bacteria loads directly to the creek without sufficient natural filtration.