Local 2 Investigates water samples of Houston splash pads

Water samples tested to see which splash pads are clean

By Bill Spencer - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - Kids call them splash pads: Think of a giant, public, shower minus the soap and shampoo.

Throughout Houston's long, hot, summer, tens of thousands of children flock to these parks to splash in the water, dance in the water, even sit and roll around in the water.

But with all these children playing here, have you ever wondered what's actually in that water?

Now armed with scientific testing supplies from a certified, Texas testing laboratory, Local 2 Investigates visited eight of Houston's 21 city-run splash pads, including Hermann Park, Wiley Park, Burnett Bayland Park and Cullen Park, to test both the water-spraying-heads and the splash pad decks.

Local 2 Investigates carefully swabbed several areas at each pad, swabbing the surface where these kids play and all around the nozzles themselves.

They put those swabs into plastic evidence bags, put the bags in ice to keep them cold and took their samples to the San Antonio Testing Laboratory.

Scientists there will test for three things: Total bacteria count, total coliform bacteria count and the most dangerous, total fecal coliform count.

Days later, the results are in and they showed that 6 of the 8 splash pads were very clean.

However, at Aron Ledet Park, the total coliform bacteria count, is quote "too numerous to count," an indication that many, different types of bacteria are growing here.

Even worse, at Burnett Bayland Park, the fecal coliform count comes in at 700 colony forming units per 100 mils.

Doctors said that's enough to make kids sick.

"Moderate to severe diarrhea could result from this, all the way up to having fevers, blood in the stool, a dysentery type of thing," said Dr. Grant Fowler of the University of Texas Health Medical School.

Local 2 Investigates took their results to the Deputy Director of Houston's Parks And Recreation Department, Mark Ross.

Ross told Local 2's Bill Spencer that the City of Houston inspects and cleans each one of the city's 21 splash pads once a week, but they do not do laboratory testing like we've done.

As for the high fecal coliform count we found at Burnett Bayland Park, Ross said "I can't explain it, but I can explain that we have many, many people using these spray-grounds every day, and we could have it clean one moment and a couple of hours later we could have an accident and now we have a problem."

Ross thanked Local 2 Investigates for doing the in-depth lab tests, and he said what was found will help his department in the future. He also pointed out that six of the eight splash pads were clean.

If you are taking your kids to a public splash pad this summer, Dr. Fowler suggests if your kids have open cuts or scrapes, you should keep them out of the water.

Fowler said try to teach your kids not to swallow the water or try to drink it, and tell your kids to stay on their feet while at the splash pad.

Fowler also said your children shouldn't sit or roll around on the ground at one of these spray-grounds.

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