E. coli found in Tempe Town Lake before triathlon

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Tempe Town Lake took a bit of a beating in last week's storm.

Debris and trash have washed into the water, and now city crews are working to get this lake ready for race day.

"A triathlon is three disciplines, so it's swimming, biking and running. If you can't get in the water, obviously you can't swim," said John Sellinger of Life Time Tri.

That's the possibility athletes competing in Sunday's triathlon are facing at Tempe Town Lake.

"We ran tests yesterday morning. We got those results back today, and we do a sampling of three different areas," said Melissa Quillard with the City of Tempe.

Thursday's test results of the east and west sides of the lake came back OK, but in the middle of the lake, tests show high levels of E. coli.

So right now, the water is not safe for swimming.

"Oftentimes, the lake will correct itself," Quillard said. "So you might have high readings one day, but by the next day, the lake has corrected itself through natural means. Through sunlight and time, the bacteria dies."

Cans, bottles and debris have collected in areas of the lake, and crews are working to clean up what they can because this is not just your average triathlon. Sunday's race will also serve as a national championship for the paratriathlete.

"So anywhere from blind athletes to athletes with amputations will be competing," Sellinger said. "It'll be a pretty powerful, moving experience, so it'll be great to see the paratriathletes come out and destroy our courses because they all are crazy fast at this national championship level."

And if test results are still high, Life Time Tri has a backup plan.

"In the event that we can't swim, we'll change from triathlon format to a duathlon format, which is run, bike, run versus swim, bike, run, so we'll keep athletes out of the water and out of harm's way if there is harm," Sellinger said.

The City of Tempe ran tests Friday and will again on Saturday.

The results from Saturday's tests will determine whether the athletes can get in the water, so this may end up being a race day decision.

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