By Lauren DiSpirito
LAKEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4)– Federal agencies have launched an investigation to determine what has contaminated the water in a Lakewood retention pond, killing more than a dozen geese and ducks and sickening at least three more.
Friday, authorities with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Lakewood police and animal control, and West Metro Fire Rescue barricaded the pond, behind the Lakewood Senior Living at 3232 S. Vance Street, and spent most of the day retrieving the dead birds and taking sickened birds to a rehabilitation center in Denver to receive veterinary care.
An unidentified pollutant was discharged into the water, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Public Affairs Specialist Ryan Moehring. So far, investigators have not been able to determine what the substance is and how it got into the water. There are several drainage points from the surrounding neighborhood that empty into the small pond. Residents first reported seeing a white milky sheen on the water on Wednesday. However, Moehring said impacted birds, including mallards and Canada geese, appeared dirty and soot-covered, not white.
Toxicologists with the EPA collected soil and water samples and are now awaiting test results.
“Based on visuals,” Moehring told CBS4, “we don’t feel there is a human health concern at this time.”
While experts do not think the substance is harmful to humans, Moehring suggest people, especially with pets, stay away from the area, until investigators know more. He says necropsies will be performed the birds that have died.
“It’s concerning, we never want to see any substance getting into our waterways, especially if it has a negative impact on wildlife,” Moehring said.
He said the pond is not in contact with nearby Bear Creek. Gayle Kinn, who lives in a nearby neighborhood, said she was walking her dog near the pond on Thursday when she spotted one of the sick birds.
“There was a duck and it was just lying there on the grass there and it wasn’t moving,” Kinn said. “I knew it wasn’t well.”
Without knowing what the contaminant is and how it got into the pond, investigators are not ruling any possibilities. That includes the possibility that the pollutant originated from natural causes, or, that it was intentionally placed in the pond, though Moehring says, so far, there is no evidence to suggest the latter. He says U.S. Fish and Wildlife has not received any complaints about birds in the area prior to this incident. As part of their investigation, officials will look for footage captured by nearby surveillance cameras.
“It just makes me sick, to think, hopefully nobody did it,” Kinn said, “I hope it’s a natural cause.”
If you come across a dead or sickened animal in the area, Moehring is encouraging people not to handle it, but instead, to call Lakewood Animal Control at 303-987-7173.