Sacramento’s homeless population is growing and much of them have settled down on the shores of the American River, flowing right through the center of the city. The homeless encampments have caused many problems for the state’s capitol, including creating a dangerous swimming situation on the Lower American River.
The lack of public bathrooms along the water means they have to “go” wherever they can find privacy, which typically means next to or into the water. For three years in a row, the water downstream has been analyzed and officials found extremely high levels of E. Coli, a sign of fecal matter, in areas popular for recreation, like swimming and fishing.
At Tiscornia Beach, nine of fifteen water tests during the from June through September 2019 showed E. Coli levels exceeding national and state standards. At nearby Discovery Park, nine of the twelve water tests exceeded the standards. Now, an analyzation of waterways show the E. Coli levels remain high at North 10th Street and Tiscornia Beach in downtown Sacramento:
It’s become clear that the homeless encampments along the American River are not only a humanitarian crisis, but have also created an environmental and health crisis. The waters surrounding the high areas of E. Coli are frequented by fishermen and swimmers alike.
The high levels of E. Coli in the waters of the Lower American River mean that approximately three of every 100 swimmers would become ill after contact with the water. Symptoms would include diarrhea, stomach pains and a fever.
Although the area along the American River has become popular for outdoor enthusiasts, as well as the homeless population, officials have refused to open 24-hour bathrooms in the area, claiming they would be quickly destroyed. Attempts to set up temporary toilets in the past have resulted in horror stories like sleeping-bag-clogged-toilets, officials told the Sacramento Bee.
So far, no instances of E.Coli-caused sickness have been reported, but that doesn’t mean people aren’t getting sick.
This isn’t the first time that Sacramento’s waterways have seen high levels of E. Coli. In the spring of 2018, the same areas of the American River along with sections of the Sacramento River recorded E. Coli levels that were seven times the threshold set by the Environmental Protection Agency. During that study, it wasn’t clear what caused the high levels, but today the problem is much more obvious.
It’s become clear that the homeless problem in Sacramento, along with many other areas in Northern California, can be detrimental to everyone’s health.