E. Coli found in Hyrum Reservoir; low water levels reveal old wrecked cars

Hyrum State Park employee Shawnee Hawkes adjusts the warning of E. Coli sign on the door of the main entrance of Hyrum State Park Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021.

HYRUM – E. Coli has been found in Hyrum Reservoir, said a Hyrum State Park employee.  There are signs warning people of the bacteria that have been posted at the entrance of Hyrum State Park. There is a sign on the door at the main office and one at the east entrance.

Fishermen fish among the wrecked cars on the north side of Hyrum Reservoir where cars were dumped to keep a gully from eroding on Wednesday Sept. 1.

Shawnee Hawkes, who was manning the entrance to the park Wednesday, said they were informed by the Environmental Health division of the Bear River Health Department who gave them signs to put up, warning the public of the bacteria.

“If you are fishing or boating you should be fine,” she said. “I wouldn’t be waterskiing, swimming, kayaking or paddle-boarding on the reservoir right now.”

Grant Koford, environmental health director for the Bear River Health Department, said they were informed by the Utah State Division of Water Quality that E. Coli numbers were higher than they should be for this time of year.

The Utah State Division of Water Quality examine the water quality periodically and check the dam’s water. They informed us it had higher E. Coli numbers than it should have,” he said. “Our office posted signs on the windows of the offices and east gate.”

He said it is not high enough to close the reservoir, but indicated it is not safe to be in the water right now.

“We are concerned with the levels and at this point we don’t know where the E. Coli is coming from,” Koford said. “There is not as much water in the reservoir right now and it could be coming from a number of places.”

Paul Burt of Brigham City loads his pontoon boat into the back of his pick up after fishing for four hours on Hyrum Reservoir Wednesday, Sept . 1. He was trying to catch yellow perch but caught some trout instead.

BRHD has never had this problem before. No one drinks the water from the reservoir, it is all used for irrigation.

Some types of the E. Coli bacteria are harmless and naturally live in human and some animal intestines.

The bacteria is associated with food poisoning, but it can also cause pneumonia and urinary tract infections.

E. Coli can cause adult kidney failure, fever, bleeding, confusion and seizures.

Hyrum Dam water feeds into Wellsville City and Mendon. The water can still be used to water crops and lawns.

Although the water is dropping, the Hyrum Dam water tender Kirt Lindley said they still have about water they can draw on before they have to stop.

“The reservoir is currently around 4,640 feet (in elevation),” Lindley said. “When it is full Hyrum Reservoir is at 4,672 feet. We can still pull another three feet from the reservoir.”

He said they are still pumping water for farmers in Wellsville and Mendon.

Cars that were dumped to keep the north hillside from sloughing into Hyrum Reservoir came down into the water. The results are visible due to low water levels on Wednesday, Sept, 1, 2021.

The east side of the reservoir has dropped low enough that it has exposed car frames that were dumped down a nearby gully in the 1940s to stop the hillside from sloughing into the water. But clearly the cars came down with the clay cliffs as they eroded.

Construction on the dam began in 1934 and took a year to complete.

At one time there was a trail that took people from the boat dock area to the beach with informative signs along the way. It has closed because of the walls of the reservoir have been caving into the water. But one sign on the trail explained the reason for the cars being dumped into the gully.

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