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Castles made of poo: Beware E. coli in the sandbox?

sandhand3406221384_5bae0f849d_z.jpgAs a toddler I spent hours playing in the backyard sandbox. If I was lucky, my digging would turn up some especially moist clumps with an interesting smell that I loved squeezing into crumbs. Years later I realized with disgust that those clumps were the neighbor's cat's "doings." (Thanks, Morris.)

My sandbox play was certainly uncouth, but was it also hazardous to my health? If so, children playing in Redwood City, Calif., parks are safe from similar dangers. Officials there think poopy sandboxes pose unacceptable risks to children. After spending $70,000 to get rid of E. coli in sandboxes in two parks, the city has given up the battle and removed the play equipment.

Today's Bay Citizen explains that about two years ago the city's director of Parks, Recreation and Community Services, Christopher Beth, received an anonymous tip about a couple of children getting sick after playing in one of the sandboxes. So he ordered tests and found an E. coli problem in the original sandbox and one other:

After the contaminated sand was replaced, Beth continued to test for bacteria; soon, high levels of E. coli present were back. Nothing the city tried seemed to work - including turning off a nearby water feature, bleaching the sand, redoing the drainage system and changing the type of sand used.

The source of contamination was cat feces in one case and human feces in the other.

The solution? The city's replacing of the sandboxes with water features: a "snail stream" and a trio of "spitting frogs," which are less prone to contamination and a lot easier to clean. The expectation is that most of the harmful stuff will simply go down the drain.

Photo by madaise

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